April 6, 2010

Choreographing Your Evaluations: The Logic Model Limbo

It is a dance you might have always wanted to learn. Maybe you are looking for some new moves or you’re wondering how to learn the steps. When thinking about conducting evaluations, I often conjure up a choreographed dance between a program, outcomes, and funding, which becomes consumed by audience members or participants of a program.

Let’s delve into how this dance is choreographed. There are multiple designs to be implemented when considering program evaluations. I will indulge you with a few items to consider when crafting an effective evaluation. It is important to keep in mind that evaluations are constantly in process and have a particular relationship with programs and product outcome. Funding is often linked into what the outcomes of a program will offer individuals or a community. Throughout the life of a program, please remember that participants are some of the key evaluators. Program staff, identified evaluators, and funders need to be attentive to how participants are interacting with a program design.

It is important to have a shared understanding of what an evaluation will cover, its purpose, and how the information will be utilized afterwards. One of the key pieces of evaluations is to know what you will be using it for once completed. What is the vision of the evaluation? What are the steps needed to use the evaluation to enhance a program or mission of the organization that connects with this vision?

One way to begin crafting evaluations is through the use of a logic model. First, determine how it will be utilized to enhance your programs and evaluations. I will highlight two types of evaluations to consider: a summative evaluation and a formative evaluation.

What is a summative evaluation? This form of evaluation is focused on outcomes and the impact of the program. It is an evaluation that is conducted at the end of a program or milestone.

A formative evaluation, on the other hand, is an evaluation conducted for purposes of learning about what is working and takes into consideration how a program might be improved. It examines the relationship between a process and the outcomes of a program. For instance, an evaluation may indicate that a public message is not working or a strategic approach to implementation might need to be changed. It is conducted during the implementation of the program.

Engaging with a logic model can assist with highlighting the most significant reasons for an evaluation. Some key questions to ask include: What did we do and what did we get?  These two primary questions can lead to other significant questions about a program design, implementation success, changes within participants, how the community was influenced, and in what ways might a program be improved.

Next, what are the important indicators are used in an evaluation?   Which are the relevant indicators that will assist with assessing your program and its contributions to individuals and/or the community? The process of determining what indicators are relevant and how they may benefit the outcomes of your evaluations is highly important.

Lastly, it is important to set performance standards. Choreographed dances have expectations of what an audience will walk away feeling and thinking. Once an evaluation is complete, a program can establish performance standards in preparation for the next evaluation process.

Both the summative and formative evaluations can offer a way to see what is working given the circumstances. By using a logic model throughout the process, it offers a way to see what information is relevant and how you can choreograph your next dance for the good of the audience.

Reference: Lisa Wyatt Knowlton and Cynthis C. Phillips. (2009). The Logic Model Guidebook: Better Strategies for Great Results.

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