Evaluation helps you reflect on a program, make changes in it, and make decisions about it. While the most obvious time to evaluate is at the end, you must plan ahead. You can also include evaluation along the way to help check that the program and its activities are on track.
Evaluation can help you twice: once during the education initiative and again in planning for a new initiative. During the program or event you may want to emphasize evaluation of program processes and organization. After the program, you may want to emphasize program impacts and analyze which program components contributed to those impacts.
If you've been working on your Logic Model Worksheet (, 1 pp., 10KB) as you think through the design of your program, you are already prepared to evaluate aspects of your education or outreach initiative. Typically you might want to study whether or not the initiative accomplished desired short term results, but all other components of the planning model could be evaluated as well.
Reasons you might consider evaluating include: (Simmons, 2004)
A University of Wisconsin on-line course can help you step through the process of using the Logic Model to clarify program design elements, and to help you see opportunities for evaluation, http://www.uwex.edu/ces/lmcourse/#.
BEP Research for target audiences provides specific details about potential outcomes for a particular target audience and provides examples of how others have studied programs to understand their impacts.
Assess a Program will help you determine whether you are using BEPs.
Most educators are familiar with evaluating immediate or short term results: students read some information and we ask them a question to find out whether they retained the main idea. To help you think beyond tests, we provide an Evaluation Checklist for youth programs in Educating Young People About Water — A guide to planning and evaluation , http://www.uwex.edu/erc/eypaw. The Checklist will help you to examine specific elements of the program's structure and operation and to carefully scrutinize its successes and its needs for improvement. It will help you determine if program resources are being used effectively and if you have met you're own and others' expectations. It also addresses the performance of leaders and teachers.
The Evaluation Checklist seeks to answer the broad program question: do the activities, as whole, help youth improve water quality or quantity in their community, or is it simply a collection of science or recreation activities? With youth programs, this particular objective may be difficult or impossible to evaluate. Most are so short (one day, one week, one semester) that they alone won't have an impact on the resource. However, taken together, community youth programs about water which are held over several years may show a measurable improvement to the resource. A critical element of success at this level, therefore, is making a continuing connection with the community.
Best Practices Workbook for Boating, Fishing, and Aquatic Resources Stewardship Education , available from the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, www.rbff.org
Simmons, B. 2004. Designing Evaluation for Education Projects (, 157 KB, 48 pp), available from the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Education and Sustainable Development. This resource provides understandable explanations for types of evaluations, evaluation tools, and when to conduct an evaluation.
Educating Young People About Water: A guide to planning and evaluation , http://www.uwex.edu/erc/eypaw/guides.html
The Nonformal Environmental Education Programs: Guidelines for Excellence , provides general guidelines for designing, implementing and evaluating an education program, http://naaee.org/npeee/nonformal.php
OERL: Online Evaluation Resource Library, http://oerl.sri.com/home.html . This NSF library was developed for professionals seeking to design, conduct, document, or review project evaluations.