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Encyclopedia > Program evaluation

Program evaluation is essentially a set of philosophies and techniques to determine if a program 'works'. It is a practice field that has emerged, particularly in the USA, as a disciplined way of assessing the merit, value, and worth of projects and programs. Evaluation became particularly relevant in the 1960s during the period of the Great Society social programs associated with the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Extraordinary sums were invested in social programs, but the means of knowing what happened, and why were not available. These five broad types of question are called analytical or logical, epistemological, ethical, metaphysical, and aesthetic respectively. ... A program or programme (in management) has at least two senses: A collection of projects that are directed toward a common goal, e. ... The 1960s in its most obvious sense refers to the decade between 1960 and 1969, but the expression has taken on a wider meaning over the past twenty years. ... The Great Society was a set of domestic programs enacted in the United States on the initiative of President Lyndon B. Johnson. ... For other uses, see JFK (disambiguation) or John Kennedy (disambiguation). ... Lyndon Baines Johnson (August 27, 1908–January 22, 1973), often referred to as LBJ, was an American politician. ...

Behind the seemingly simple question of whether the program works are a host of other more complex questions. For example, the first question is, what is a program supposed to do? It is often difficult to define what a program is supposed to do, so indirect indicators may be used instead. For example schools are supposed to 'educate' people. But what does 'educate' mean? Give knowledge? Teach how to think? Give specific skills? If the exact goal cannot be defined well, it is difficult to indicate whether the program 'works'.

Another question about programs is, what else do they do? There may be unintended or unforeseen consequences of a program. Some consequences may be positive and some may be negative. These unintended consequences may be as important as the intended consequences. So evaluations should measure not just whether the program does what it should be doing, but what else it may be doing.

Perhaps the most difficult part of evaluation is determining whether it is the program itself that is doing something. There may be other events or processes that are really causing the outcome, or preventing the hoped for outcome. However, due to the nature of the program, many evaluations cannot determine whether it is the program itself, or something else, is the 'cause'.

One main reason that evaluations cannot determine causation involves self selection. That is, people select themselves to participate in a program. For example, in a jobs training program, some people decide to participate, and others, for whatever reason, do not participate. It may be that those who do participate are those who are most determined to find a job, or who have the best support resources, thus allowing them to participate and allowing them to find a job. The people who participate are somehow different from those who don't participate, and it may be the difference, not the program, that leads to a successful outcome for the participants, that is, finding a job. Self-selection is a term used to indicate any situation in which individuals select themselves into a group. ...

If programs could, somehow, use random selection, then they could determine causation. That is, if a program could randomly assign people to participate or to not participate in the program, then, theoretically, the group of people who participate would be the same as the group who did not participate, and an evaluation could 'rule out' other causes. This article is about causality as it is used in many different fields. ...

However, since most programs cannot use random assignment, causation cannot be determined. Evaluations can still provide useful information. For example, the outcomes of the program can be described. Thus the evaluation can say something like, "People who participate in program xyz were more likely to find a job, while people who did not participate were less likely to find a job."

If the program is fairly large, and there are many participants, and there is enough data, statistical analysis can be used sometimes to make a 'reasonable' case for the program by showing, for example, that other causes are unlikely.

Another approach is to use the evaluation to analyze the program process. So instead of focusing on the outcome (for example, did people in a jobs training program get jobs), the evaluation would focus on what the program was doing. For example, did people seem to learn the skills being taught? Did people stay in the program or did they drop out part way through? Were the teachers teaching appropriate skills? And so forth. This information could help how the program was operating.

People who do program evaluation can come from many different backgrounds, such as sociology, psychology, economics, social work or many other areas. Some graduate schools also have specific training programs for program evaluation. Social interactions of people and their consequences are the subject of sociology studies. ... Psychology (ancient Greek: psyche = soul or mind, logos/-ology = study of) is an academic and applied field involving the study of mind and behavior. ... U.S. Economic Calendar Economics at the Open Directory Project Economics textbooks on Wikibooks The Economists Economics A-Z Daily analysis of economics in the news (UK focus) Institutions and organizations Bureau of Labor Statistics - from the American Labor Department Center for Economic and Policy Research (USA) National Bureau... Social Work is a helping profession focused on psychosocial problems, and largely (though not exclusively) concerned with populations that face special obstacles or disadvantages, such as persons with low incomes, persons with disabilities, elders, and persons diagnosed with mental illness. ...

Program evaluations can involve quantitative methods of social research or qualitative methods or both. Quantitative methods are research methods dealing with numbers and anything that is measurable. ... Social research refers to research conducted by social scientists (primarily within sociology, but also within other disciplines such as social policy, human geography, social anthropology and education). ... The qualitative method in sociology is a research method. ...

See also

// Foundations The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism Max Weber Die protestantische Ethik und der Geist des Kapitalismus, 1904 Online version Description: In The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Weber puts forward a thesis that Puritan ethic and ideas had influenced the development of capitalism. ... This article lacks information on the importance of the subject matter. ...

External links

  • Links to Assessment and Evaluation Resources List of links to resources on several topics, including: Centers; Community building; Education and training in evaluation; Foundations; Indiana government & organizations; Links collected by...; Logic models; Performance assessment & electronic portfolios; Political & private groups or companies; Professional assns, orgs & pubs; Purdue University; United States Government; Web searches for publications by author & topic; and Vivisimo topical meta searchs.

  Results from FactBites:
Program Evaluation (299 words)
Program evaluation is designed to serve the Legislature of Wyoming, through the Management Audit Committee, by providing legislative oversight of programs that utilize public funds.
Evaluation reports contain timely and useful analytical material of a sort that is not provided by other sources.
Program evaluation is a response to legislatorsÂ’ demands for independent, thorough analyses of program performance and related policy issues.
Evaluation Design (810 words)
An evaluation design consists of the evaluation questions under study, the methodological strategies for answering these questions, a data collection plan that anticipates and addresses problems that may be encountered, an analysis plan that will ensure that questions are answered appropriately, and a product description (usually a report).
Evaluators help clients develop the "correct" questions for study, because how questions are posed has immense implications for the evaluation approach taken, the data collected, etc.-in other words, for the entire evaluation design.
Evaluators also use the terms "formative" versus "summative" evaluation to refer to work that focuses on forming/planning/improving a program, versus assessing the end result or summary effects of the program.
  More results at FactBites »



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