The most common purposes, or intended uses of evaluations, are often described by the terms formative evaluation and summative evaluation.
Formative evaluation focuses on evaluation for project improvement, in contrast with summative evaluation which uses evaluation results to make decisions about project adoption, expansion, contraction, continuation, or cancellation.
Since formative evaluation is all about project improvement, it needs to occur while there is still time to implement change. So, the earlier a formative evaluation can begin in an ATE project cycle, the better. Formative evaluation is also a recurring activity. As such, those who will be involved in implementing change (project leaders and staff) are the ones who will be the most interested in the results of a formative evaluation.
E. Jane Davidson notes in her book, Evaluation Methodology Basics, that there are two main areas in which formative evaluation is especially useful. Adapted for the ATE context those areas are:
- To help a new project “find its feet” by helping to improve project plans early in the award cycle. Another example for a new project is collecting early evidence of project relevancy from faculty and students, thus allowing changes to occur before full roll out of a project component.
- To assist more established projects improve their services, become more efficient with their grant dollars, or reach a larger audience. For projects looking for refunding, formative evaluation can assist in finding areas of improvement (even in long standing activities) to better respond to changing needs.
The Evaluation Glossary App features more than 600 terms related to evaluation and assessment. Designed for both evaluators and those who work with evaluators, the app provides three ways to access the terms. The first way allows the user to browse alphabetically, like a dictionary. The second option is to view the terms by one of eight categories: 1) data analysis; 2) data collection; 3) ethics and guidelines; 4)evaluation design; 5) miscellaneous; 6) program planning; 7) reporting and utilization; and 8) types of evaluation. The categories are a great starting point for users who are less familiar with evaluation lingo. The final option is a basic search function, which can be useful to anyone who needs a quick definition for an evaluation term. Each entry provides a citation for the definition’s source and crossreferences related terms in the glossary.
App author: Kylie Hutchinson of Community Solutions. Free for Android, iOS. Available wherever you purchase apps for your Android or Apple mobile device or from communitysolutions.ca/web/evaluation-glossary/.
Sustainability is about ensuring that at least some aspects of a project or center’s work—such as faculty positions, partnerships, or curricula—have “a life beyond ATE funding” (nsf.gov/ate). By definition, sustainability “happens” after NSF funding ends—and thus, after the project or center’s evaluation has concluded. So how can sustainability be addressed in an evaluation? There are three sources of information that can help with a prospective assessment of sustainability, whether for external evaluation purposes or to support project planning and implementation:
(1) Every ATE proposal is supposed to include a sustainability plan that describes what aspects of the grant will be sustained beyond the funding period and how. (2) Every proposal submitted in 2012 or later required a data management plan. This plan should have described how the project’s data and other products would be preserved and made available to others. Both the sustainability and data management plans should be reviewed to determine if the project will be able to deliver on what was promised. (3) Developed by Wayne Welch, the Checklist for Assessing the Sustainability of ATE Projects and Centers can be used to determine a project’s strengths and weaknesses in regard to sustainability. The checklist addresses diverse dimensions of sustainability related to program content and delivery, collaboration, materials, facilities, revenue, and other issues. See bit.ly/18l2Fcb.