In Part One of this blog series we discussed six key challenges that can arise when conducting evaluations in the research world. Evaluation work is tough; mistakes can be made, big complications can arise and the challenges can feel overwhelming. Here we discuss solutions to the evaluation challenges that we highlighted in Part One, which we hope will guide you toward more effective evaluations in the future.
Challenge 1: Poor Planning
Solution: Plan Ahead
If you don’t properly plan for an evaluation it won’t go well. It’s that simple.
- Do your homework and plan ahead of time
- Understand the program or project you are evaluating.
- Conduct thorough literature and documentation review.
- Create a timeline detailing data collection efforts, make a logic model for evaluation.
Challenge 2: Lack of Readiness
Solution: Reach Out
Facing a lack of readiness is a common issue; here are some suggetions on who to reachout to get prepared:
- Get input from key internal and external stakeholders.
- Follow up with additional outreach if you need more support and information.
- Determine the desired outcomes and outline how to achieve them.
Challenge 3: Ineffective Approaches
Solution: Do Your Research
Before starting an evaluation, research which approach is the right one for the project. Evaluations are not a one-type-fits all; different approaches work with different programs. Once you’ve picked an approach, create an evaluation plan and a logic model to communicate with key stakeholders about the evaluation effort so that everyone understands and is supportive of the approach. Also, make sure to seek outside help from a research evaluator if you need it.
Challenge 4: Bad Questions
Solutions: Ask Better Questions
Asking the right questions is key to getting you the results you’re looking for in an evaluation. Examples of useful questions include:
- What is the need for the program?
- Was the structure of the program appropriate?
- Is the program well-implemented?
- Was the program responsible for the outcomes that actually occurred?
- Was the program adequate, efficient, relevant, cost-beneficial?
- Did the program achieve its intended objectives?
Challenge 5: Bad Data
Solution: Collect Quality Data
To collect high quality data you need high standards for data collection. Research and identify the existing reliable and valid measures available for the evaluation. Choose the right data collection method for the project, have a clear protocol for data entry, and ensure that staff are properly trained in and understand the importance of the protocol.
Challenge 6: Too Much Data
Solution: Be Efficient
As we’ve highlighted, developing a logic model and an evaluation plan are key ways of solving many of the challenges involved in an evaluation, and the same is true for collecting the right amount of data. In addition to those tools, identifying clear research and evaluation questions and identifying the desired outcomes for the project are crucial elements to successfully collecting exactly the data you need, and that nothing extraneous is included.
Thank you for reading our two-part series on evaluation challenges and solutions. We hope you’ve gained valuable insight on how to successfully implement an evaluation. If you have any specific follow-up questions to this blog post, or any other research and evaluation needs, please contact Dr. Annette Shtivelband.