Program Evaluation


Program evaluators analyze programs, focusing on various elements such as needs, processes, personnel, outcomes, mission, objectives, cost/benefit, and other specific domains. Evaluations can be conducted internally, from within the organization by existing staff, or externally through an independent firm. Either way the Evaluators may utilize both quantitative and qualitative tools, examining already documented data or engaging in a new fact-finding mission. The goals of many program evaluations are to revitalize organizations, reorient participants, or discover new pathways to success in achieving program objectives.

In order to organize your program evaluation one must be clear on the following questions (Community Tool Box):

  1. What is being evaluated?
  2. What criteria will be used to judge the program performance?
  3. What standards of performance on the criteria must be reached for the program to be considered successful?
  4. What evidence will indicate performance on the criteria relative to the standards?
  5. What conclusions about performance are justified based on available evidence?

How to Learn Program Evaluation

logo-text In this tool box created by University of Kansas introduces and goes into detail about who is involved with evaluations and how to go about initiating an evaluation.

User-Friendly Handbook for Program Evaluation is a guide to evaluations provided by the National Science Foundation.  This guide includes practical information on quantitative and qualitative methodologies in evaluations.

Evaluating Educational Programs – Michigan State University a website developed by the Office of Medical Education Research and Development (OMERAD) at Michigan State University, that offers a guide  through the six steps of developing an evaluation plan for your program or curriculum.

Planning for Evaluation – Minnesota Council of Nonprofit A nonprofit sight that gives tips about conducting an evaluation.

kellogg-logo The W.K. Kellogg Foundation provides a framework for thinking about evaluation as a relevant and useful program tool. It was originally written for program directors, but provides good information even if one is not a director.

University of Arizona Program Planning and Evaluation It provides links to information on several topics including methods, funding, types of evaluation, and reporting impacts.

Associations and Journals

American Evaluation Association is an international professional association of evaluators devoted to the application and exploration of program evaluation, personnel evaluation, technology, and many other forms of evaluation.

burke5RAND’s European Evaluation and Performance Audit program helps “decision- and policymakers improve the analysis underlying their choices. The research team works across a range of topical disciplines and uses mixed methods of inquiry involving both qualitative and quantitative approaches.”


Evaluation Examples – Pell Institute This link leads to the Pell Institute Evaluation Example page. The Page offers 15 examples of program evaluations from all types of areas.

Study Designs for Program Evaluation The design was produced by Project STAR. It includes a write up on how to decide which type of evaluation is needed as well as how to conduct them, as well as what threats to validity

Written by: Burke Zen and Caitlin Plese
Last updated: 18 December 2014

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