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Evaluation 2022 Feedback in Evaluation Working Group Week: Examining the Relationship Between Feedback and Outcomes by Penny Huang

Penny Huang is a Chinese woman with bangs and eyeglasses. She is looking to the right of the screen against a grey and white background.

Hi. I’m Penny Huang, and I manage the Feedback Research Portfolio at Fund for Shared Insight. Shared Insight has long advocated that creating high-quality, client-focused feedback loops is the “right thing to do.” Its signature initiative, Listen4Good, has demonstrated that feedback is a “feasible thing to do.” Now, we are starting to see the results of research that show feedback is the ”smart thing to do.”

In 2019, Shared Insight made research grants to a portfolio of six organizations —  Boys & Girls Club of the Peninsula (BGCP), Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP), Pace Center for Girls, REDF, and YouthTruth — to explore whether there is a relationship between perceptual feedback and outcomes for individuals served by direct-service organizations.

While the grantee teams designed different research projects given their varied programs, each one contributes to an evidence base that helps to establish feedback as a best practice by demonstrating the relationship between feedback and outcomes. 

Close up Single Magnifying Glass with Black Handle, Leaning on the Wooden Table at the Office.

Lessons Learned

  • BGCP partnered with Hamai Consulting to find that student perceptions as measured on student surveys are predictive of academic performance as measured by state standardized math and English scores.
  • CEO partnered with research consulting firm MDRC to explore the relationship between participant feedback and participant outcomes in CEO’s employment program and found that participants who responded to texts sent by CEO asking for their feedback on a variety of program components were 5-10% more likely to be employed 90 or 180 days after initial employment, regardless of the content or valence of their feedback. Their findings suggest that the act of providing feedback in and of itself is associated with positive outcomes.  
  • NFP partnered with OMNI Institute to develop survey and analysis plans to investigate whether asking for feedback can lead to increased client engagement and improve client retention and client outcomes. While their analyses are still in progress, early findings indicate differences in survey responses by race/ethnicity, which has prompted discussions at NFP about how to further understand and improve client experiences by leveraging the feedback they receive, as they receive it. NFP is actively pursuing ways to make ongoing program improvements to better respond to the needs of the families it serves.
  • YouthTruth worked with SRI researchers to find that student perceptions of belonging and collaboration are predictive of reading proficiency and suspension rates.
  • Pace partnered with Covian Consulting and Arc of Evidence to employ mixed-methods approaches to examine feedback and outcomes. This work is also still in analysis, but early findings indicate that providing feedback contributes to program participants’  progression in how they use their voices and speak up in leadership roles.
  • REDF partnered with research firm RTI International to investigate whether program perceptions are predictive of outcomes among participants of four employment social enterprises (ESEs). Their work will be featured in tomorrow’s post, but (spoiler alert!), they find that feeling connected to staff and fear of not being able to succeed at a job outside the ESE to be predictive of positive program exits. In short, they find perceptual feedback to be predictive of outcomes.

Taken together, this body of research establishes the beginnings of an evidence base that demonstrates feedback is the “smart thing to do”. Gathering high-quality feedback and practicing high-quality feedback loops correlates with better outcomes. If you’d like to learn more, the feedback research grantees will be writing about their projects in more detail on posts to Shared Insight’s blog, Insights for Change.

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