Director of Research, The Evaluation Center at Western Michigan University
Lori has a Ph.D. in evaluation and more than 20 years of experience in the field of program evaluation. She directs EvaluATE and leads and a variety of evaluation projects at WMU focused on STEM education, health, and higher education initiatives. Dr. Wingate has led numerous webinars and workshops on evaluation in a variety of contexts, including CDC University and the American Evaluation Association Summer Evaluation Institute. She is an associate member of the graduate faculty at WMU.
The purpose of this handbook is to help those who are responsible for organizing, planning, or conducting NVC meetings. It is mainly intended for principal investigators (PIs), but other audiences include center staff, committee chairs, committee members, and others with responsibilities related to NVCs. The NVC Handbook is not intended to establish policy, nor does it necessarily apply to other NSF programs.
New ATE project principal investigators (PIs): When you worked with your evaluator to develop an evaluation plan for your project proposal, you were probably focused on the big picture—how to gather credible and meaningful evidence about the quality and impact of your work. To ensure your evaluation achieves its aims, take these four steps now to make sure your project provides the human resources, time, and information needed for a successful evaluation:
Schedule regular meetings with your evaluator. Regular meetings help ensure that your project’s evaluation receives adequate attention. These exchanges should be in real time—via phone call, web meetings, or face-to-face—not just email. See EvaluATE’s new Communication Plan Checklist for ATE PIs and Evaluators for a list of other communication issues to discuss with your evaluator at the start of a project.
Work with your evaluator to create a project evaluation calendar. This calendar should span the life of your project and include the following:
Due dates for National Science Foundation (NSF) annual reports: You should include your evaluation reports or at least information from the evaluation in these reports. Work backward from their due dates to determine when evaluation reports should be completed. To find out when your annual report is due, go to Research.gov, enter your NSF login information, select “Awards & Reporting,” then “Project Reports.”
Advisory committee meeting dates: You may want your evaluator to attend these meetings to learn more about your project and to communicate directly with committee members.
Project events: Activities such as workshops and outreach events present valuable opportunities to collect data directly from the individuals involved in the project. Make sure your evaluator is aware of them.
Due dates for new proposal submissions: If submitting to NSF again, you will need to include evidence of your current project’s intellectual merit and broader impacts. Working with your evaluator now will ensure you have compelling evidence to support a future submission.
Keep track of what you’re doing and who is involved. Don’t leave these tasks to your evaluator or wait until the last minute. Taking an active—and proactive—role in documenting the project’s work will save you time and result in more accurate information. Your evaluator can then use that information when preparing their reports. Moreover, you will find it immensely useful to have good documentation at your fingertips when preparing your annual NSF report.
Maintain a record of project activities and products—such as conference presentations, trainings, outreach events, competitions, publications—as they are completed. Check out EvaluATE’s project vita as an example.
Create a participant database (or spreadsheet): Everyone who engages with your project should be listed. Record their contact information, role in the project, and pertinent demographic characteristics (such as whether a student is a first-generation college student, a veteran, or part of a group that has been historically underrepresented in STEM). You will probably find several uses for this database, such as for follow-up with participants for evaluation purposes, for outreach, and as evidence of your project’s broader impacts.
An ounce of prevention is worth of pound of cure: Investing time up front to make sure your evaluation is on solid footing will save headaches down the round.
Creating a clear communication plan at the beginning of an evaluation can help project personnel and evaluators avoid confusion, misunderstandings, or uncertainty. The communication plan should be an agreement between the project’s principal investigator and the evaluator, and followed by members of their respective teams. This checklist highlights the decisions that need to made when developing a clear communication plan.
Evaluation is an important element of an ATE proposals. EvaluATE has developed several resources to help you develop your evaluation plans and integrate them into your ATE proposals. This video highlights a few of them—these and more can be accessed from the links below the video.
Give your proposal a competitive edge with a strong evaluation plan. The National Science Foundation has issued a new solicitation for its Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program. It includes major changes to the guidelines for ATE evaluation plans. Attend this webinar to learn the key elements of a winning evaluation plan and strategies for demonstrating to reviewers that evaluation is an integral part of your project, not an afterthought. In addition, we’ll provide you with specific guidance for how to budget for an evaluation, locate a qualified evaluator, and describe results from prior NSF support with supporting evaluative evidence. You will receive an updated and other tools to help prepare strong evaluation plans.
This template is for use in preparing the evaluation plan sections for proposals to the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program. It is based the ATE Evaluation Planning Checklist, also developed by EvaluATE. It is aligned with the evaluation guidance included in the 2017 ATE Program Solicitation. All proposers should read the solicitation in full.
All ATE proposals are required to request “funds to support an evaluator independent of the project.” Ideally, this external evaluator should be identified in the project proposal. The information in this guide is for individuals who are able to select and work with an external evaluator at the proposal stage. However, some institutions prohibit selecting an evaluator on a noncompetitive basis in advance of an award being made. Advice for individuals in that situation is provided in an EvaluATE blog and newsletter article.
This guide includes advice on how to locate and select an external evaluator. It is not intended as a guide for developing an evaluation plan or contracting with an evaluator.
This template was created by EvaluATE. It is based on the National Science Foundation’s guidelines for preparing biographical sketches for senior project personnel. The information about what evaluators should include in Products and Synergistic Activities sections are EvaluATE’s suggestions, not NSF requirements. The biosketch must not exceed two pages.
This tool can help users to ensure that they have developed a viable plan for collecting all the data necessary to answer each evaluation question and that all data collected will serve a specific, intended purpose.
This checklist is intended to be of assistance to grant writers, project leaders, and evaluators as they develop evaluation plans for proposals to the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program. It is organized around the components of an NSF proposal (see the NSF Grant Proposal Guide), with an emphasis on the evaluation elements that are needed in several locations throughout a grant proposal. This document is not intended to serve as a comprehensive checklist for preparing an ATE proposal. Rather, it includes guidance for aspects of a proposal that pertain to evaluation. All proposers should carefully read the 2017 ATE Program Solicitation.