I know it is Monday, not Tuesday or Wednesday. I will not have internet access Tuesday or Wednesday and I wanted to answer a question posed to me by a colleague and long time friend who has just begun her evaluation career.
Her question is:
What are the best methods to collect outcome evaluation data.
The answer: It all depends.
On what does the collection depend?
- Your question.
- Your use.
- Your resources.
If your resources are endless (yeah, right… ), then you can hire people; use all the time you need; and collect a wealth of data. Most folks aren’t this lucky.
If you plan to use your findings to convince someone, you need to think about what will be most convincing. Legislators like the STORY that tugs at the heart strings.
Administrators like, “Just the FACTS, ma’am.” Typically presented in a one-page format with bullets.
Program developers may want a little of both.
Depending on what question you want answered will depend on how you will collect the answer.
My friend, Ellen-Taylor Powell, at the University of Wisconsin Extension Service has developed a handout of data methods (see: Methods for Collecting Information). This handout is in PDF form and can be downloaded. It is a comprehensive list of different data collection methods that can be adapted to answer your question within your available resources.
She also has a companion handout called Sources of Evaluation Information. I like this handout because it is clear and straight forward. I have found both very useful in the work I do.
Whole books have been written on individual methods. I can recommend some I like–let me know.