What are standard evaluation tools?  What knowledge do you need to conduct an evaluation effectively and efficiently?  For this post and the next two, I’m going to talk about just that.

This post is about planning programs. 

The next one will be about implementing, monitoring, and delivering the evaluation of that program.

The third one will be about utilizing the findings of that program evaluation.

Today–program planning.  How does program planning relate to program evaluation?

A lot of hours goes into planning a program.  Questions that need to be answered among others include:

  • What expertise is needed?
  • What is the content focus?
  • What venue will be utilized?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • How many can you accommodate?
  • What will you charge?
  • And the list of questions goes on…talk to any event planner–they will tell you, planning a program is difficult.

Although you might think that these are planning questions, they are also evaluation questions.  They point the program planner to the outcome of the program in the context in which the program is planned.  Yet, what often happens is that evaluation is often left out of that planning.  It is one detail that gets lost in all the rest–until the end.  Unfortunately, retrofitting an evaluation after the program has already run often results in spurious data, leading to specious results, resulting in unusable findings and unfortunately–a program that can’t be replicated.  What’s an educator to do?

The tools that help in program planning are ones you have seen and probably used before:  logic models, theories of change, and evaluation proposals.

Logic models have already been the topic of this blog.   Theories of change have been mentioned.  Evaluation proposals are a new topic.  More and more, funding agencies want an evaluation plan.  Some provide a template–often a modified logic model; some ask specifically for a program specific logic mode.  Detailing how your program will bring about change and what change is expected is all part of an evaluation proposal.  A review of logic models and theories of  change and the program theory related to your proposed program will help you write an evaluation proposal.

Keep in mind that you may be writing for a naive audience, an audience who isn’t as knowledgeable as you in your subject matter OR in the evaluation process.  A simple evaluation proposal will go a long way to getting and keeping all stakeholders on the same page.

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