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