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Assignment 3: Design a Plan for Program Evaluation or Policy Analysis

01 Apr

Assignment 3:  Design a Plan for Program Evaluation or Policy Analysis

Design a practical, doable program evaluation or policy analysis.  Write your plan as if you were writing it to submit to a program manager in either a public sector or non-profit organization.  Remember: you do NOT actually have to perform the evaluation.  You merely have to design a plan for it. Your plan document should be approximately 15 to 20 pages in length.

 

Proposal for your Analysis/Evaluation Plan

 

As part of Module 2, you are required to submit a one or two page proposal outlining the program or policy you wish to use as the basis for your analysis/evaluation plan.  It is essential that you choose a program/policy at this point and stick with it.  I will quickly review your proposal to make sure your project is feasible and to offer some advice on how to proceed. A well-written proposal should be the basis for part “A” of your final paper (see below).

Guidelines for Preparing a Practical, Implementable Program Evaluation Design

 

The evaluation design is expected to include the following features:

1. It needs to be practical, that is, suited to the program that is being targeted for the evaluation. There are always constraints on designing and conducting actual program evaluations, and your design should be sensitive to the organizational, measurement, cost and time constraints that are part of the evaluation background.

 

No one research design, or measurement methodology or program structure will fit a variety of evaluation settings. You will need to adapt the tools learned in the course to fit the situation you have focused on.

 

2. It needs to exhibit characteristics that make it a quality evaluation design. We will discuss and you will read about different criteria for recognizing high quality evaluations.

 

One criterion we will discuss is defensibility. Essentially, a defensible evaluation (and an evaluation design) is one that withstands criticism. Criticism can be directed at different points in the evaluation process.

 

The most obvious target of criticism is the methodology of the evaluation. Issues like the appropriateness of the evaluation design(s), the nature (and existence) of comparison groups, the measures used, the statistics used (if appropriate), the interpretation of the analyses are all examples of targets for methodological criticism.

 

There are other targets for criticism that are less obvious. They include the accuracy of the program logic model, the appropriateness of the evaluation questions that guide the program evaluation, the readability of the report when it is written, the dissemination of the results, including the realism and appropriateness of the recommendations, the involvement (or lack of it) of the program managers in the evaluation process.

 

Still other targets exist, some of them quite subtle. Program evaluations can be criticized because the evaluator took too long to get the study done, or the study cost too much in relation to the benefits derived from the recommendations. Program evaluations are sometimes criticized because of the ethical ramifications of the evaluation methodology or recommendations.

3. Your evaluation design should include these things:

 

A. A brief written description of the program or policy for which you are designing the plan.  This should not exceed 2 pages of the entire paper.

 

B. Identify the rationale for doing the evaluation design, that is, the reasons why the project is worthwhile. Discuss the main questions that are driving the evaluation process. Depending on the setting, it may be appropriate to briefly discuss previous evaluation efforts that could be applied to your setting.

 

C. Identify and model the logic of the program. The main idea of program logics is to identify the main cause-effect relationships that lead up to the program effects. How you put the logic on paper will vary with the evaluation setting.

 

A program structure (as discussed in class) is often a useful way to identify the main parts of a program and their linkages.

 

As part of the development of a program structure, develop an inventory of environmental factors, and indicate how they are expected to influence the program process.

 

D. Discuss the research design(s). Why is/are the design(s) you have selected the most appropriate one(s) for your evaluation setting? What are its/their strengths? What are its/their weaknesses, and how are those weaknesses buttressed by other features of the research designs? In different words, how are plausible rival hypotheses to program effects dealt with?

 

E. Discuss the measures you would use to operationalize the main constructs in the evaluation. Be realistic, that is, when you discuss a measure, make sure that the data actually exist, or you have outlined a process to collect it.  Pay attention to the validity and reliability of proposed measures.

 

If you intend to use a survey, be prepared to outline its main sections so that it is clear which variables will be operationalized with the survey instrument.

 

The entire assignment is similar in important respects to an evaluability assessment.  The key difference is that evaluability assessments are usually done to determine whether it is appropriate to proceed with an evaluation. You, instead, are designing an evaluation for a program. In effect, your evaluability assessment phase is built into the project informally and is done to determine whether you should go ahead with the evaluation design.

You are not doing an evaluation — you are designing a practical evaluation. Your design should be implementable, when it is finished.

 

Assignment 3:  Design a Plan for Program Evaluation or Policy Analysis

Design a practical, doable program evaluation or policy analysis.  Write your plan as if you were writing it to submit to a program manager in either a public sector or non-profit organization.  Remember: you do NOT actually have to perform the evaluation.  You merely have to design a plan for it. Your plan document should be approximately 15 to 20 pages in length.

 

Proposal for your Analysis/Evaluation Plan

 

As part of Module 2, you are required to submit a one or two page proposal outlining the program or policy you wish to use as the basis for your analysis/evaluation plan.  It is essential that you choose a program/policy at this point and stick with it.  I will quickly review your proposal to make sure your project is feasible and to offer some advice on how to proceed. A well-written proposal should be the basis for part “A” of your final paper (see below).

Guidelines for Preparing a Practical, Implementable Program Evaluation Design

 

The evaluation design is expected to include the following features:

1. It needs to be practical, that is, suited to the program that is being targeted for the evaluation. There are always constraints on designing and conducting actual program evaluations, and your design should be sensitive to the organizational, measurement, cost and time constraints that are part of the evaluation background.

 

No one research design, or measurement methodology or program structure will fit a variety of evaluation settings. You will need to adapt the tools learned in the course to fit the situation you have focused on.

 

2. It needs to exhibit characteristics that make it a quality evaluation design. We will discuss and you will read about different criteria for recognizing high quality evaluations.

 

One criterion we will discuss is defensibility. Essentially, a defensible evaluation (and an evaluation design) is one that withstands criticism. Criticism can be directed at different points in the evaluation process.

 

The most obvious target of criticism is the methodology of the evaluation. Issues like the appropriateness of the evaluation design(s), the nature (and existence) of comparison groups, the measures used, the statistics used (if appropriate), the interpretation of the analyses are all examples of targets for methodological criticism.

 

There are other targets for criticism that are less obvious. They include the accuracy of the program logic model, the appropriateness of the evaluation questions that guide the program evaluation, the readability of the report when it is written, the dissemination of the results, including the realism and appropriateness of the recommendations, the involvement (or lack of it) of the program managers in the evaluation process.

 

Still other targets exist, some of them quite subtle. Program evaluations can be criticized because the evaluator took too long to get the study done, or the study cost too much in relation to the benefits derived from the recommendations. Program evaluations are sometimes criticized because of the ethical ramifications of the evaluation methodology or recommendations.

3. Your evaluation design should include these things:

 

A. A brief written description of the program or policy for which you are designing the plan.  This should not exceed 2 pages of the entire paper.

 

B. Identify the rationale for doing the evaluation design, that is, the reasons why the project is worthwhile. Discuss the main questions that are driving the evaluation process. Depending on the setting, it may be appropriate to briefly discuss previous evaluation efforts that could be applied to your setting.

 

C. Identify and model the logic of the program. The main idea of program logics is to identify the main cause-effect relationships that lead up to the program effects. How you put the logic on paper will vary with the evaluation setting.

 

A program structure (as discussed in class) is often a useful way to identify the main parts of a program and their linkages.

 

As part of the development of a program structure, develop an inventory of environmental factors, and indicate how they are expected to influence the program process.

 

D. Discuss the research design(s). Why is/are the design(s) you have selected the most appropriate one(s) for your evaluation setting? What are its/their strengths? What are its/their weaknesses, and how are those weaknesses buttressed by other features of the research designs? In different words, how are plausible rival hypotheses to program effects dealt with?

 

E. Discuss the measures you would use to operationalize the main constructs in the evaluation. Be realistic, that is, when you discuss a measure, make sure that the data actually exist, or you have outlined a process to collect it.  Pay attention to the validity and reliability of proposed measures.

 

If you intend to use a survey, be prepared to outline its main sections so that it is clear which variables will be operationalized with the survey instrument.

 

The entire assignment is similar in important respects to an evaluability assessment.  The key difference is that evaluability assessments are usually done to determine whether it is appropriate to proceed with an evaluation. You, instead, are designing an evaluation for a program. In effect, your evaluability assessment phase is built into the project informally and is done to determine whether you should go ahead with the evaluation design.

You are not doing an evaluation — you are design

 
 

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