Develop Evaluation Questions
Evaluation questions are the overall questions about your program that your evaluation will answer; your evaluation plan will be about how to answer these questions. Some example questions include: “What inputs were necessary to implement the program? What activities were carried out? To what extent did the program achieve its outcomes?”
It is easy to confuse program evaluation questions with those you might ask in an interview or a survey (Note: data collection methods will be discussed later). The difference is evaluation questions are broader in scope, while those asked in interviews or surveys are more specific—they serve to answer the broader questions.
Evaluation questions should focus on the specific program elements that you determined most important, but may also include questions that test the “logic” of the logic model itself. Examples could be: “Did we have the resources needed to support the activities? Did we choose the right activities for achieving the outcomes we wanted? Did the outcomes happen as a result of these activities? If not, did the activities contribute in any way to the outcomes?”
Why is it important to identify the evaluation questions? Here’s an example of what might happen if you do not identify and agree upon evaluation questions:
You are evaluating an afterschool program for which you have developed a logic model, but have not identified the focus of the evaluation or the evaluation questions. You decide to administer a questionnaire to program participants anyway. To figure out what to ask in the questionnaire, you talk to key people in the school district and discover three different perspectives from the various stakeholders:
Program staff want to know what aspects of the program kids liked or didn’t like and what incentives will keep them participating.
The school administrator wants to know who the program reached and whether it served the kids most in need.
The school board wants to know if the program is having an impact on academic achievement in the district.
These three perspectives address very different elements of the program, not all of which could be evaluated using a questionnaire. However, if these questions were asked earlier in the development of the program, they could have been incorporated into the evaluation plan. You could have determined the appropriate evaluation methods so that your stakeholders’ questions were answered, thereby making your evaluation the most relevant to the most people.