Tips for Carrying Out Evaluations
Here are some tips for carrying out both process and outcome evaluations.
- Learn all you can about the culture and customs of the youth and older adults in your program. Factors such as race, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, county of origin, and primary language can affect how people respond to evaluation questions and procedures. These factors should be taken into consideration when you are designing your evaluation and analyzing your data.
- Maintain program and partnership logs. By keeping a log of conversations and observations, you can track what does and does not work. These logs will help you problem-solve and communicate with program partners and participants, and help you plan future programs.
- Keep thorough attendance records. Document individual attendance and the youth-to-resident ratio. Growth in program attendance may suggest that the program is going well. Declines in attendance may indicate problems with the program or other developments at school or in the housing community. After the program ends, study these records to detect patterns.
- Keep financial records. Tally direct expenses like refreshments, art supplies, entertainment tickets, and transportation. Divide the costs by the number of participants or hours of programming. This will give you a per-participant or per-hour cost.
Summarizing Your Findings
Once you have administered your surveys to residents and youth, you will want to interpret the findings.
Depending on the number of respondents, you may be able to score each measure by hand and enter the anonymous scores into an Excel spreadsheet. That way you can track pre- and post-activity surveys easily and observe any changes over time.
Keep scores you collect for youth in a separate Excel file from the scores you collect for older adults. That way, you can see if the two groups differed in their responses.
EVALUATION IN ACTION
A resident services coordinator (RSC) is planning to host a Cantonese language conversation class with residents and local university students. The group will meet weekly for 6 weeks at the housing community. The first meeting will focus on getting to know one another over light snacks. Subsequent meetings will be informal, small-group conversations about any topic of the group’s choosing.
The RSC and her university faculty partner decide that this type of program could impact their respective populations on the following measures:
- ↑ Generativity
- ↑ Attitudes about youth
- ↓ Depression
- ↓ Loneliness
- ↑ Empathy
- ↑ Attitudes about older adults
- ↑ Knowledge of Cantonese language
The RSC and faculty partner decide they will conduct a survey covering these measures on the first and last day of the 6-week program. The university instructor has a measure of Conversational Cantonese Language that she can use to gauge improvised conversational skills among her students.
The university instructor will work with an undergraduate work-study student who will help enter and tally the survey results in an excel file.
This could be a great task for a volunteer or student intern!
Once you have entered your pre- and post-activity scores, and observed any differences from the first meeting to the final meeting, you can start to illustrate the impact your program on the two populations involved.
Don’t overstate what the findings might mean. Do not summarize your finding by saying “there was a significant change in the way…” Rather, you should say “There was an increase, decrease, or no change in the way…”
Collect quotations or testimonials from participants. Anecdotal evidence
of experiences can provide important learning opportunities and
can attract new participants to participate in the future.