Action Guide > Evaluation
Evaluation of each service-learning experience is important in determining the extent to which goals and learning objectives of the project were met. Through evaluation you can strengthen your ability to design and implement future service-learning initiatives.
Like reflection, good evaluation takes place before, during, and after the service project. It is important that evaluation is planned from the beginning and returned to throughout the proces.
Explaining the Reasons for Your Evaluation
Before you begin the evaluation process, you must be clear about the reasons for evaluating your program. Here are a few common reasons for evaluating service-learning programs:
> To find out if the program is achieving its goals.
> To show funders and sponsors that their money was well spent.
> To justify the program to administrators, parents, teachers, students, and community partners.
> To make adjustments that will improve the program.
> To provide evidence of success so that other people will become involved in the program.
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Stating Your Goals
A goal is an articulation of your vision of the program. It expresses what you
intend to accomplish. What do you hope participants will get out of this experieence? What benefits do you hope the community will receive as a result of this program? Be sure that the participants develop these goals as a group before beginning to plan their project.
Goals for service-learning programs tend to fall into four categories:
> Goals for participants or students.
> Goals for coordinators or teachers.
> Goals for the sponsoring agency.
> Goals for the community.
Once you have chosen and articulated your goals, consider which ones and
which aspects of each can be evaluated effectively.
Section based on The Evaluation Handbook: Practical Tools for Evaluating Service Learning Programs by Mark Batenburg and Denise Clark Pope (Service Learning 2000 Center, 1997).
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The actual work of evaluation should measure whether you have met your
goals. Choose the appropriate tools for measuring progress toward your goals.
Here are four tools you might use:
> Documents and Objects – collect and evaluate any documents or
objects related to your program. Examples include photographs, videos,
newspaper articles, journal entries, blogs, drawings, or portfolios.
> Questionnaires are useful in gathering information from large groups of
people. It can be especially useful to ask the same questions before and
after a program to note any changes that may have resulted.
> Interviews are useful for investigating what people have learned, how
they feel about your program, and how they reflect on the changes they
have seen over time.
> Observation – look closely at a certain process and write field notes on
what is observed.
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Making an Evaluation Plan
Evaluation cannot be carried out effectively if it is not planned at the start. If
you wait until the end of the project, it will be too late – you will have no data,
no surveys, and possibly no participants! Your evaluation plan should be based
on the objectives established before you began the project.
Before starting the project:
> Plot out the evaluative tools you will be using (eg: interviews, evaluation
forms, focus groups, etc.), the factors you will be measuring, the person
responsible for employing each evaluative tool, and the time frame for
each tool’s use.
> Use a calendar to plan ahead. Think carefully about what needs to be done
in order to complete each piece of the evaluation.
> List who will be responsible for each part of the evaluation.
> Be sure to leave time to write up your findings into a report, if desired.
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Analyzing Your Data and Writing a Report
When analyzing your documents and data, it is important to stay focused on the goals and objectives that you established when you launched the project. The material you are collecting serves one main purpose: to show that those objectives have been achieved. Examine all the data you have collected. Search for the data that will best prove that you have met your goals. Search for trends in the data. Often some of your goals will have been met and others will not. When writing your report, be sure to include quotations and photos of participants in order to keep it interesting and exciting. Here is a list of items you might want to include in your report:
> A brief and clear description of your program.
> The goals of your program and the activities designed to achieve the goals.
> Indicators of the participant’s learning and accomplishments.
> A summary of the findings. Report the negative as well as the positive. Be
sure to explain something about the evaluation process itself.
> Visual aids (e.g. pictures, charts, maps).
> Recommendations for the future growth and improvement of the program.
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