Today, I’m going to talk about evaluation use that is, the using of evaluation findings. Now, Michael Patton Patton wrote the book (actually more than one) on the topic. Patton's utilization focused evaluation And I highly recommend that book (and the shorter version, Essentials of Utilization-Focused EvaluationEssentials of UFE [461 pages including the index as opposed to 667]).

I firmly believe that there is no point in conducting an evaluation if the final report of that evaluation sits on someone’s shelf and IS NEVER USED! Not just read (hopefully!), USED to make the program better. To make a difference.

Today, though, I want to talk about how that final report is put together. It doesn’t matter if it is an info-graphic, a dash-board, an executive summary, a 300-page document, it all has to be your best effort. So I want to talk about your best effort.

That best effort is accurate, not only reporting the findings, also the spelling, the grammar, the syntax.

For example: The word “data” is a plural word and takes a plural noun. Yep. Check the dictionary folks. Websters Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary says (under the entry data) plural of DATUM. (I’ll bet you didn’t know that the plural of OPUS is OPERA. Just another example of the peculiarities of the English language.) The take away here: When in doubt, check it out!

When I put together a final report (regardless of the format), I use the 5Cs as a guideline. (I also use it as a basis of reviewing manuscripts.) Those 5Cs are: Clarity. Coherence. Conciseness. Correctness. Consistency. Following the 5Cs results in a product in which I can be proud.

How do you use your evaluation report? Keep these things in mind!

my two cents


Summer reading 2 Many of you have numerous lists for summer reading (NY Times, NPR, Goodreads, Amazon, others…). My question is what are you reading to further your knowledge about evaluation? Perhaps you are; perhaps you’re not. So I’m going to give you one more list 🙂 …yes, it is evaluative.

If you want something light:  Regression to the Mean by Ernest R. to the mean It is a novel. It is about evaluation. It explains what evaluators do from a political perspective.

If you want something qualitative:  Qualitative Data Analysis by Matthew B. Miles, A. Michael Huberman, and Johnny Saldana.Qualitative data analysis ed. 3 It is the new 3rd edition which Sage (the publisher) commissioned. A good thing, too, as both Miles and Huberman are no longer able to do a revision. My new go-to book.

If you want something on needs assessment: Bridging the Gap Between Asset/Capacity Building and Needs Assessment by James W. Altschuld. Bridging the Gap-altschuld Most needs assessments start with what is lacking (i.e., needed); this proposes that an assessment start with what is present (assets) and build  from there, and in the process, meeting needs.

If you want something on higher education:  College (Un)bound by Jeff unbound by jeffry selingo  The state of higher education and some viable alternatives by a contributing editor at the Chronicle of Higher Education. Yes, it is evaluative.

Most of these I’ve mentioned before. I’ve read the above. I recommend them.

Continue reading

I blogged earlier this week on civility, community, compassion, and comfort.  I indicated that these are related to evaluation because it is part of the values of evaluation (remember the root of evaluation is value)–is it mean or is it nice…Harold Jarche talked today about these very issues phrasing it as doing the right thing…if you do the right thing, it is nice.  His blog post only reinforces the fact that evaluation is an everyday activity and that you (whether you are an evaluator or not) are the only person who can make a difference.  Yes, it usually takes a village.  Yes, you usually cannot see the impact of what you do (we can’t get easily to world peace).  Yes, you can be the change you want to see.  Yes, evaluation is an every day activity.  Make nice, folks.  Try a little civility; expand your community; remember compassion.  Comfort is the outcome. Comfort seems like a good outcome.  So does doing the right thing.

Once again, it is the whole ‘balance’ thing…(we) live in ordinary life and that ordinary life is really the only life we have…I’ll take it. It has some great moments…


These wise words come from the insights of Buddy Stallings, Episcopal priest in charge of a large parish in a large city in the US.  True, I took them out of context; the important thing is that they resonated with me from an evaluation perspective.

Too often, faculty and colleagues come to me and wonder what the impact is of this or that program.  I wonder, What do they mean?  What do they want to know? Are they only using words they have heard–the buzz words?  I ponder how this fits into their ordinary life. Or are they outside their ordinary life, pretending in a foreign country?

A faculty member at Oregon State University equated history to a foreign country.  I was put in a mind that evaluation is a foreign country to many (most) people, even though everyone evaluates every day, whether they know it or not.  Individuals visit that contry because they are required to visit; to gather information; to report what they discovered.  They do this with out any special preparation.  Visiting a foreign country entails preparation (at least it does for me).  A study of customs, mores, foods, language, behavior, tools (I’m sure I’m missing something important in this list) is needed; not just necessary, mandatory.  Because although the foreign country may be exotic and unique and novel to you, it is ordinary life for everyone who lives there.  The same is true for evaluation.  There are customs; students are socialized to think and act in a certain way.  Mores are constantly being called into question; language, behaviors, tools, which not known to you in your ordinary life, present themselves. You are constantly presented with opportunities to be outside your ordinary life.  Yet, I wonder what are you missing by not seeing the ordinary; by pretending that it is extraordinary?  By not doing the preparation to make evaluation part of your ordinary life, something you do without thinking.

So I ask you, What preparation have you done to visit this foreign country called EVALUATION?  What are you currently doing to increase your understanding of this country?  How does this visit change your ordinary life or can you get those great moments by recognizing that this is truly the only life you have?   So I ask you, What are you really asking when you ask, What are the impacts?


All of this has significant implications for capacity building.

I’ve long suspected I wasn’t alone in the recognition that the term impact is used inappropriately in most evaluation. 

Terry Smutlyo sings a song about impact during an outcome mapping seminar he conducted.  Terry Smutlyo is the Director, Evaluation International Development Research Development Research Center, Ottawa, Canada.  He ought to know a few things about evaluation terminology.  He has two versions of this song, Impact Blues, on YouTube; his comments speak to this issue.  Check it out.


Just a gentle reminder to use your words carefully.  Make sure everyone knows what you mean and that everyone at the table agrees with the meaning you use.


This week the post is  short.  Terry says it best.

Next week I’ll be at the American Evaluation Association annual meeting in Anaheim, CA, so no post.  No Disneyland visit either…sigh



There has been a lot of buzz recently about the usefulness of the Kirkpatrick model

I’ve been talking about it (in two previous posts) and so have others.   This model has been around a long time and has continued to be useful in the training field.  Extension does a lot of training.  Does that mean this model should be used exclusively when training is the focus?  I don’t think so.  Does this model have merits.  I think so.  Could it be improved upon?  That depends on the objective of your program and your evaluation, so probably.

If you want to know about whether your participants react favorably to the training, then this model is probably useful.

If you want to know about the change in knowledge, skills,  attitudes, then this model may be useful.  You would need to be careful because knowledge is a slippery concept to measure.

If you want to know about the change in behavior, probably not. Kirkpatrick on the website says that application of learning is what is measured in the behavioral stage.  How do you observe behavior change at a training?  Observation is the obvious answer here and one does not necessarily observe behavior change at a training.  Intention to change is not mentioned in this level.

If you want to know what difference you made in the social, economic, and/or environmental conditions in which your participants live, work, and practice, then the Kirkpatrick model won’t take you there.  The 4th level (which is where evaluation starts for this model, according to Kirkpatrick) says:  To what degree targeted outcomes occur as a result of the training event and subsequent reinforcement. I do not see this as condition change or what I call impact.

A faculty member asked me for specific help in assessing impact.  First, one needs to define what is meant by impact.  I use the word to mean change in social, environmental, and/or economic conditions over the long run.  This means changes in social institutions like family, school, employment (social conditions). It means changes in the environment which may be clean water or clean air OR it may mean removing the snack food vending machine from the school (environmental conditions).  It means changes in some economic indicator, up or down, like return on investment, change in employment status,  or increase revenue (economic conditions).  This doesn’t necessarily mean targeted outcomes of the training event.

I hope that any training event will move participants to a different place in their thinking and acting that will manifest in the LONG RUN in changes in one of the three conditions mentioned above.  To get there, one needs to be specific in what one is asking the participants.  Intention to change doesn’t necessarily get to impact.  You could anticipate impact if participants follow through with their intention.  The only way to know that for sure  is to observe it.  We approximate that by asking good questions.

What questions are you asking about condition change to get at impacts of your training and educational programs?

Next week:  TIMELY TOPIC.  Any suggestions?

My wishes to you:  Blessed Solstice.  Merry Christmas.  Happy Kwanzaa. and the Very Best Wishes for the New Year!

A short post today.

Ellen Taylor-Powell, my counterpart at University of Wisconsin Extension, has posted the following to the Extension Education Evaluation TIG list serve.  I think it is important enough to share here.

When you down load this PDF to save a copy, think of where your values come into the model; where others values can affect the program, and how you can modify the model to balance those values.

Ellen says:  “I just wanted to let everyone know that the online logic model course, “Enhancing Program Performance with Logic Models has been produced as a PDF in response to requests from folks without easy or affordable internet access or with different learning needs.  The PDF version (216 pages, 3.35MB) is available at:

Please note that no revisions or updates have been made to the original 2003 online course.

Happy Holidays!


There is an ongoing discussion about the difference between impact and outcome.  I think this is an important discussion because Extension professionals are asked regularly to demonstrate  the impact of their program.

There is no consensus about these terms.  They are often used interchangeably. Yet, the consensus is that they are not the same.  When Extension professionals plan an evaluation, it is important to keep these terms separate.  Their meaning is distinct and different.

So what exactly is IMPACT?

And what is an OUTCOME?

What points do we need to keep in mind when considering if the report we are making is a report of OUTCOMES or a report of IMPACTS.  Making explicit the meaning of these words before beginning the program is important.  If there is no difference in your mind, then that needs to be stated.  If there is a difference from your perspective, that needs to be stated as well.  It may all depend on who the audience is for the report.  Have you asked your supervisor (Staff Chair, Department Head, Administrator) what they mean by these terms?

One way to look at this issue is to go to simpler language:

  • What is the result (effect) of the intervention (read ‘program’)–that is, SO WHAT?  This is impact.
  • What is the intervention influence (affect) on the target audience–that is, WHAT HAPPENED?  This is outcome.

I would contend that impact is the effect (i.e., the result) and outcome is the affect (i.e., the influence).

Now to complicate this discussion a bit–where do OUTPUTS fit?

OUTPUTS are necessary and NOT sufficient to determine the influence (affect) or results (effect) of an intervention.  Outputs count things that were done–number of people trained; feet of stream bed reclaimed; number of curriculum written; number of…(fill in the blank).  Outputs do not tell you either the affect or the effect of the intervention.

The difference I draw may be moot if you do not draw the distinction.  If you don’t that is OK.  Just make sure that you are explicit with what you mean by these terms:  OUTCOMES and IMPACT.