If you are working in a school, chances are that you and your colleagues have been asked to implement some kind of change in the last few years. It could have been a new curriculum, a new approach to teach reading, a method of using a particular manipulative in mathematics, an approach for modeling in algebra, and the list continues. The fact is teachers and schools are bombarded with the new, revamped, reconstructed, revised, and reformed.
School leaders are responsible for making sure their schools are focused on addressing the needs of their community of students, teachers, and parents. School leaders and teachers are collectively responsible for making sure whatever program they are delivering (new or established) is effective. In other words, they need to make sure that they are meeting the objectives of their program.
Program evaluations are very useful. They help the school decide if they are on the right track and confirm the good job they are doing. They also help the school understand what they can do better.
I rarely come across teachers or principals who tell me that they don’t need to know. Mostly, I hear that the educators would like more information on what is happening so that they can be certain of their approach. But, they do let me know that they don’t always have the time or the capacity to do a program evaluation.
Time is an issue that needs to be addressed with the leadership and considering logistics. But in terms of capacity, I submit that we all do mini evaluations in our heads. If you go shopping, your mind is going through a quick little evaluation cycle to decide is it or is it not worth the purchase. But making that jump from our daily informal evaluations to a formal one for school work, well, that is another story.
There are 3 general steps that you should think about before you begin a program evaluation.
Step 1: Decide the purpose and scope of your evaluations. It is important to keep evaluations manageable. The process and results are only useful if they are specific and respond to the needs of the school. Be specific about the purpose and scope of the evaluation and stick to it.
Step 2: Design your evaluations questions by considering your objectives and think about the problem areas in the classroom and school that could affect the program. What do you need to know about the program to be able to understand how to make improvements?
Step 3: Consider the approach to answering the evaluation questions. The evaluation design should be like a road-map that includes all the steps from start to finish on how to answer the evaluation questions.
If you think through all the pieces at the beginning, you will make sure that you have the information you need & want in the end. So when you are creating the design, you should be thinking through the following flow of phases in the program evaluation: