C Brown & A Walmsley on Achieving Successful Semester-Long Program Eval Experiences

Hi!  We are Carrie M. Brown (student) & Angela Walmsley (professor) from Saint Louis University.  Today we will be sharing some tips on having a successful semester-long evaluation experience.

Graduate students can become discouraged to conduct a program evaluation by thinking it will take too long to complete and by not having direct assistance from a supervisor. We decided to tackle this obstacle by creating a one-on-one program evaluation course. Together, we completed a program evaluation within a semester time-frame that investigated an economics educational program for 3rd and 4th graders at a children’s museum. The evaluation implemented qualitative and quantitative methods, participant triangulation, and methods triangulation. Upon conclusion of the semester, the museum received a final written report. Here, we give you tips on how to create a successful semester-long one-on-one program evaluation course.

Hot Tips: Here is how we structured our course:

  • Weekly meetings: One to two hours each, between professor and student.
  • Evaluation journal articles: Student located one article per week and wrote a one-page summary/critique.
  • Outlines of textbook chapters: Student created an outline, one chapter per week, from Program Evaluation: Methods and Case Studies (Posavac & Carey, 2002).
  • Program evaluation: Weekly progress on the evaluation.
  • E-mail phone contact as needed.

Hot Tips: Here are a few bits of advice on actually conducting the evaluation itself.

  • Consider programs already in your institution or programs in the community that do not receive or cannot afford evaluations.
  • Be prepared to communicate what you can provide and your time frame to the stakeholders.
  • Contact and meet stakeholders ASAP, and set up a time to visit the program.e
  • Make a site visit and learn the program ASAP.
  • Avoid being too ambitious. Choose only one type of evaluation (needs, process, outcome, etc.).
  • Determine a small set of goals for the evaluation.
  • Create a timeline of weekly goals, keeping the end of the semester in mind.
  • Choose a study design that fits the goals and timeline.
  • Work on writing the report throughout the semester and work together to edit in sections.
  • Review several reports to learn how to best format yours.

We found our experience to be both complete and satisfying. Perhaps you will consider a semester-long one-on-one program evaluation course!

This contribution is from the aea365 Daily Tips blog, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org.

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