Evaluation is the systematic collection and analysis of data needed to make decisions, a process in which most well-run programs engage from the outset. Evaluation is the cornerstone of strong program planning, execution, and improvement.

With an evaluation plan in place, campus administrators and coalitions can assess whether a particular program or policy is working as intended and then decide whether it should continue as is or be expanded, revised, or terminated. Evaluation is an essential part of strategic planning, because evaluation findings are used to guide plans for midcourse improvements. A well-designed evaluation can document how a prevention initiative was implemented and assess its intermediate and long-term outcomes. With these findings in hand, the planning group can develop plans for strengthening or improving that effort. Evaluation is an important management tool in an academic environment, where the collection, assessment, and interpretation of evidence are highly valued activities.

There are three basic types of evaluation.

A process evaluation documents how the program work is being implemented and whether it is working as originally planned. An outcome evaluation looks at whether each program and policy is accomplishing its short-term and intermediate objectives. An impact or summative evaluation examines whether the overall effort is reducing risks factors or increasing resiliency.

Evaluations are most useful when they are planned at the same time as the program effort itself, rather than after the fact.

This approach ensures that the evaluation design is crafted to fit the programmatic goals, objectives, and activities; that the short-term, intermediate, and long-term outcomes are clearly specified; that the data necessary to assess those outcomes are collected when they are available; and that the resources needed to conduct a proper evaluation are in place in advance.

A logic model is a valuable tool in the strategic planning process.

A logic model includes key components of the program and maps out the chain of expected events that show how the specific programs and policies will lead to and accomplish intermediate and long-term outcomes. The evaluators' and program planners' first step should be to work with the staff to create a logic model that describes the program.




Featured Resources

Thumbnail cover image - Expectations Meet Reality: The Underprepared Student and Community Colleges

Explores the experiences of community college students in the areas of assessment, placement, and developmental education. The report critically examines the "broken state" of developmental education and the implications it has on the academic outcomes of underprepared students. As a recommendation to resolve this issue, the report encourages colleges to review their programs, measurement systems, and student data when developing strategies to help underprepared students successfully complete college-level work.

Center for Community College Student Engagement
Cover page of the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation resource

Provides a library of information concerning assessment, evaluation, and research methodology. Resources include tutorials, FAQs, abstracts, digests, journals, web links, and other publications.

Report cover - College Costs in Context A State-by-State Look at College (Un)Affordability

Analyzes state-level college affordability at two- and four-year public colleges, by focusing on the share of family income required to cover the net price paid by students at each income level. The report finds striking inequities in public college affordability, both within and across states. While college costs are high relative to family incomes for most students in most states, the lowest income students face the most extreme and unrealistic financial expectations. Sortable data by state and sector are also available for download.

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