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Formula for an Evaluation

Photo courtesy JaulaDeArdilla via Flickr http://goo.gl/rD1yT

This week’s exercises in evaluation culminated in our first attempts at creating and writing an evaluation proposal.  Our discussions up to now have focused primarily on the theories involved in evaluation and the formal structure of evaluation. It is now time to take this information from knowledge to application. The only way to understand evaluation is to “do” an evaluation! At first glance, writing an evaluation seems intuitive, and dare I say, straightforward. I assumed this would be an easy endeavor. The process was entirely different as I stared at the blank page. An evaluation proposal template is typically outlined as follows; Introduction (who wants the proposal and who is preparing it), Background (what is to be evaluated), Methods (how will the evaluation take place?), Qualifications of Evaluators, Task Schedule, and Budget. As a scientist, this outline seems strangely familiar, like an experimental outline!   The outline of the proposal seemed straightforward enough, a formula almost, until it came to the methods. I literally froze. How can I propose a method of evaluation before I have performed an evaluation? How will I know what is the best strategy to employ? And then it occurred to me, any evaluation is new. In order to prepare an appropriate evaluation proposal, I think the most important strategy is to make sure that you, the evaluator, has a thorough understanding of the goal(s) of the evaluation. Let the goals be your guide. And those goals or outcomes will be different with each proposal, as they should be. Because the needs of an evaluation are specific to the needs of the stakeholders involved. My first, individual attempt, at this proposal came from this place of uncertainty. It wasn’t until I was able to see how members in my group approached this same proposal that I was able to make those connections. The process of evaluation does have a formula, but that formula is contingent upon the needs of the stakeholders.

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