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Graduate Students & New Evaluators TIG Week: Cookie Logic by Crystal Luce

This week, the members of the Graduate Students and New Evaluators (GSNE) TIG share various tips, tricks, resources, and points of view that can be helpful for students and new evaluators. We hope both evaluators, new and old, will review this material and share the resources and stories with each other.
-Crystal Luce, GSNE Chair

Hello, my name is Crystal Luce and a research associate at Aurora Research Institute and adjunct faculty at several local Universities.

Cool Tricks

Understanding logic models and the various components can take time for even the most seasoned evaluator. I remember the first time I was introduced to a logic model; I had no idea what the different components were or what they were supposed to contain. I have started utilizing the concept of making cookies to better explain logic models to both my students and new evaluators. The comparison of a cookie and evaluation is not a new idea. My supervisor introduced me to the cookie as an evaluation tool. In this case, we can evaluate a cookie based on several criteria, similar to evaluating a program based on several criteria.

An example of the whole exercise is explained by Nicole Clark on their webpage. However, the activity could be taken further to help explain the evaluation cycle and elements such as logic models. After we go through the cookie exercise, students have a much better understanding of the different components of a logic model. The other great thing about this exercise is that it can be used with anything that people are familiar with making, so it doesn’t have to be a cookie; it could be another baked good or a piece of art.

Though this can be utilized to conceptualize multiple elements of evaluation, and different end products can be imagined, I want to focus on the cookie and the logic model. I first start by explaining the other components of a logic model (inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes, length of outcomes such as short, mid, and long term, and impacts). Then, a logic model can be conceptualized either by starting with impacts and working backward or starting with inputs. I ask the following questions and then put them on a board or projection so people can see how they group together.

For inputs, I ask questions like:

  • What do you need to make cookies?
  • What are the ingredients?
  • What equipment do you need?
  • What personnel do you need?
  • Is there anything else that you need?

For activities, I ask questions like:

  • What do you do to make cookies?
  • What do you need to do once you have mixed the cookies?
  • What do you do after you cook the cookies?

For outputs, I ask questions like:

  • What do you now have?
  • What can we count with these (types and numbers)?
  • Sometimes, people discuss price.

For outcomes, I ask questions like:

  • What is the result of having the cookie?
  • What is the result of eating the cookie?

For impacts, I ask questions like:

  • What do we potentially have long term?
  • What do we hope people will get from the cookie?

As a group, we then start to discuss the similarities of this cookie exercise to a program they may be familiar with and discuss the similarities. If this is a class activity, the students then create a logic model for another program they are familiar with. Different elements can be added to make this appropriate for the group you are working with. This is just another example of how the cookie can help explain aspects of evaluation. At the end, I have cookies for people to be able to eat, making sure they are appropriate for different eating restrictions.

AEA is hosting GSNE Week with our colleagues in the Graduate Student and New Evaluators AEA Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from our GSNE TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this AEA365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the AEA365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an AEA365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to AEA365@eval.org. AEA365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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