The ABCs of Evaluation
The ABCs of Evaluation
Evaluation is a task that every program and project manager will face at one time or another: you may manage the funding process for an organization, or direct a self-study that requires evaluation, or write a grant proposal that includes an evaluation segment. Occasions vary, but they are inevitable.
Still, endorsing evaluation is a lot like endorsing regular visits to the dentist. People are quick to endorse both activities, but when it comes to doing either one, most people are very uncomfortable. The ABCs of Evaluation will reduce your discomfort by doing two things: First, the book will demystify the process of designing and conducting an evaluation by helping you understand the components of an evaluation design. Second, and more important, the book's aim is to convince you that you play an integral part in any evaluation process, and therefore you are a beneficiary of the results.
Who is the you that this book is designed to assist in the process of evaluation? You might be a manager, supervisor, team facilitator, analyst, or evaluator in the private sector. Then again, you might be in the public or private sector as an administrator, coordinator, facilitator, consultant, or evaluator. Or you might be a faculty member or student in any of a host of disciplines (education, management, human services, psychology, public affairs, labor relations, or health). For any of these situations, the book will provide you with a basic understanding of the steps to follow to design, conduct, and supervise a program evaluation.
This volume has been designed to serve as an introduction to evaluation for program and project managers who have little experience in this task. It presents time-tested evaluation principles and techniques, but it does not purport to reflect the totality of the professional field of evaluation, which encompasses a far greater range of techniques and technologies than are suited to the needs and interests of this book's readership.
As a professional, you know that your programs need to show evidence of success. For example, regardless of how important a communication skills training seminar might be to the overall team-building effort of a company, if you cannot show how it affected the employees' teamwork skills or how improved teamwork added to company performance, the program might not be funded again. This realization may have originated with you, or the organization may require evaluations and demand accountability. If you have always assumed that evaluations are just too difficult for you to do, that you don't want to tackle difficult data collection or unfathomable data analysis, think again. The ABCs of Evaluation will dispel these misconceptions and show you what to do.
Both the person who is designing and performing an evaluation and the person who is participating in and receiving the findings of an evaluation need to prepare themselves to understand the basic processes involved. The evaluator, by understanding the thoughts, concerns, and questions of the evaluated, can better anticipate and prepare to address them up front. The evaluated, by anticipating the processes, the probing, and the data requests of an evaluator, can position themselves to make better use of the evaluation process and results.
Too often people feel that evaluation is something that is done to them rather than for them. Indeed, evaluation may be seen as something to get through and get around (Gray, 1998).
The ABCs of Evaluation is an easy-to-read explanation of the concepts and methods of the evaluation process. The chapters are designed to teach readers what the process offers, what it consists of, and how it is designed and implemented. In addition, the book will guide managers step-by-step throughout the process of conducting an evaluation, from the early question, "Why evaluate?" to