Program Evaluation for Women and Girls of Color: Develop The Evaluation Questions You Want To Answer
This is part three in a four-part series on program evaluation, dedicated to organizations and businesses that provide programs and services for women, girls, and communities of color (and for people with an interest in evaluation practice). Throughout this month, I will be discussing certain aspects of evaluation practice –from how I became interested in evaluation, myths about evaluation, knowing what type of evaluation to perform, and bringing your community together to support evaluation – with the intent on highlighting the importance of evaluation not just from a funding perspective, but from an accountability and empowerment perspective.
So far, we’ve discussed some possible “WHYs” of evaluation practice (from the benefits of evaluating your programs and services, seeing if the objectives of your program or service is currently meeting the needs of your participants, to looking at the misconceptions of evaluation and how they can affect your work). Now, let’s switch gears and focus on WHAT you’re evaluating and WHEN to evaluate. This part of the series is trickier than the others, but I want to touch on the basics so that you have a working knowledge on this important part of evaluation. This is by no means complete list. If you have a question about anything in particular (logic models, strategic plans, etc.) or would like me to give more examples of this week’s topic, please let me know in the comments below and I can follow-up with additional blog posts outside of this series.
What Are You Evaluating?
In order to get to your destination, you need to know where you’re going. In order to do this, we need to develop a strategy that will guide you in how you will look at your data. This will help you determine if your producing the results you’re expecting. This is where evaluation questions come in. An evaluation question helps you look at your data to see if your program or service is producing its intended objectives.
There are two types of evaluation questions: a process evaluation question and a results-focused question. A process question wants to know how the program is functioning. How a program functions depends on a variety of factors, such as the length of the program, the number of participants, the activities being offered in the program, how the participants interpret ad interact to the activities, and so forth. In other words, the who, what, when, and how of the program’s implementation. Process questions are especially useful when you’re in the beginning stages of planning your program; however, they can be asked throughout the program so that you’re always thinking ahead and adjusting your program’s implementation.
A result-focused question, on the other hand, wants to know if the program is accomplishing the results you’re expecting. In other words, how effective is your program, and are your participants benefiting from the program in the way you’ve intended? Results-focused questions typically follow the completion of a program.
Now that we know more about the types of evaluation questions, let’s look at when each question comes into play. (more…)