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Jack Mills on Project Requirements

My name is Jack Mills, I’m a full-time independent evaluator. My projects are mostly in higher education, evaluating training programs in science and engineering designed to broaden participation in those fields. I also evaluate K-12 education programs designed to improve student achievement.

Hot Tip: One thing I’ve learned when setting up the contract for an evaluation project is to pay careful attention to what the project will require from the client in order to be successful. For example, program staff needs to be accessible, the program is responsible to distributing and collecting surveys, etc. I then make it very clear from the start what these dependencies are. I write the list of program staff responsibilities right into the contract. If I’m concerned about how well the evaluation project is running, I might put out a project status report every month highlighting from the project standpoint what is on track, what is in danger of falling behind and what is already behind. The status report might also remind staff of next steps in the project and upcoming milestones. Keeping the program well informed about the timeline and each person’s responsibilities should help to prevent bad surprises later on. I wish I were organized enough to put out such a status report on every project, but it does not always work out that way.

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

2 thoughts on “Jack Mills on Project Requirements”

  1. Hi Jack, thanks for this, its really important stuff. Making sure that expectations are really clear about what you need from project staff. I have seen many evaluations fall down because of this. It is something that may be buried in a contract somewhere, but you need to get it out and make sure that all staff involved know what they need to be doing in terms of collaborating on an evaluation.

    Often front line staff providing accurate data are what determines whether an evaluation is successful or not.


    Paul Duignan

  2. Thanks Jack! Do you have an example of what your status reports look like to share? I’m thinking it may provide an example of how to execute this beneficial process.

    Those looking for guidance on evaluation management may also want to take a look at the Evaluation Checklist Project (there is a separate section on management that includes a contracting checklist from Daniel Stufflebeam) to see if it is useful for them: http://www.wmich.edu/evalctr/checklists/checklistmenu.htm

    Thanks for the tip!

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