The ATE program solicitation calls for the evaluation of project effectiveness. Effectiveness, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, is “the degree to which something is successful in producing a desired result.” Therefore, ATE evaluations should determine the extent to which projects achieved their intended results, demonstrating how the project’s activities led to observed outcomes.
To claim effectiveness requires establishing causal links between a project’s activities and observed outcomes. To establish causation, three criteria must be met: temporal precedence, covariation, and no plausible alternative explanations (see bit.ly/trochim). For example, if you claim that your project led to increased enrollment of women in engineering technology, you need to provide evidence that (1) the trend did not start until after the project was initiated, (2) individuals or campuses not involved in the project did not experience the same changes or that the degree of change varied with the degree of involvement; and (3) nothing else going on in the project’s environment could have produced the observed increase in the number of women enrolled.
While important, there is more to evaluation than measuring effectiveness. Some other considerations include relevance, efficiency, impact, and sustainability (these are project evaluation criteria developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; to learn more see bit.ly/oecd-dac.)