What is Program Evaluation? Evaluation has been described as the "systematic collection and analysis of information about a program's activities, characteristics, and outcomes to make judgments about the program, improve program effectiveness, and/or inform decisions about future programming." 1
While there are many different types of program evaluations, and many terms are used to describe them (including the traditional 'formative' and 'summative' distinction), evaluations are usually one of three types: process, outcome, or developmental evaluations.
- Process evaluations: assess whether an intervention or program model was implemented as planned, whether the intended target population was reached, and identify the major challenges and successful strategies associated with program implementation.
- Outcome evaluations are conducted to determine whether a program is achieving the intended results once the program is implemented, and to what extent, the expected changes in outcomes can be attributed to the program activities.
- Developmental evaluations ask evaluative questions and apply evaluation logic in order to support and guide program, staff and/or organizational development, often where there is no formal program model being implemented.
- An evaluation can reveal "what works well" and "what isn't working" with a program.
- An evaluation can examine both the efficiency and the effectiveness of a program for an organization.
- An evaluation can provide valuable feedback to improve a program's service for its customers.
- An evaluation can support a program ability to plan for the future.
- An evaluation can generate and share knowledge among stakeholders and inform decision making.
Typically, program evaluations follow a five step approach3:
- Engage stakeholder and focus the evaluation by determining exactly what you need to know about your program; Often the evaluator works with the program team to develop a logic model of how the program functions and confirm key evaluation questions.
- Choose appropriate methods for answering the evaluation questions;
- Identify indicators and develop data collection tools;
- Gather and analyze the data and evidence; &
- Report results and use the findings from the evaluation to help make decisions about the program.
- Patton, M.Q. (1997). Utilization-focused Evaluation. Sage Publications
- Adapted from: Program Manager's Guide to Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families
- Porteous, Nancy L. (1997). Program Evaluation Tool Kit: a blue print for public health management