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Develop Evaluation Questions

Once an evaluator has been selected, stakeholders have been engaged, and a team has been assembled, begin the planning process by discussing the evaluation purpose and selecting evaluation questions.

It is important to have a clear vision about the reasons for the evaluation before drafting specific evaluation questions. The initial team meeting can be dedicated to reaching a consensus about the primary evaluation goals.

The example below provides several reasons that one outreach program outlined for carrying out its evaluation:

Example of Evaluation Goals

Admission Possible, an outreach program that strives to help motivated low-income students attend college by offering ACT test preparation and application guidance, outlined the following as the main reasons for doing an evaluation.

  • Defining and measuring the outcomes of the Admission Possible program
  • Demonstrating how well the expected outcomes are being achieved
  • Improving the program based on assessing program results and feedback from participants
  • Developing an understanding of staffing’s impact on the program
  • Tracking useful program information for later use by program staff

After you have reached a consensus about the primary purpose of the evaluation activities, you can begin to identify the most important questions that your team wants the evaluation to answer. You can begin the brainstorming process by discussing the following questions among your team:

  1. What are the main goals of your program?
  2. How will you know if you have accomplished your goals?
  3. What are the activities that your program undertakes to accomplish these goals?
  4. What factors might help or hinder your ability to accomplish your goals?
  5. What will you want to tell others who are interested in your program?

The following are examples of broad evaluation questions developed by an outreach program:

Example of Evaluation Questions

The Fulfillment Fund, a pre-college outreach program that offers college preparation classes to low-income high school students (as well as a college retention program) developed the following evaluation questions:

  • Did we achieve the goals and objectives of our high school and postsecondary programs (as outlined in the program logic model)?
  • Did the students benefit from participation in the program?
  • Did we use our resources effectively?
  • What changes might we recommend to better serve our students?

Note: A program logic model (link to logic model tool) can help narrow down the vast array of questions you may want to answer about your program, by highlighting the connections between program components and outcomes. Most outreach programs that conduct useful evaluations develop a logic model as part of the evaluation planning process. The next several sections in the Toolkit will introduce and discuss the usage of logic models.

Once you have begun the process of prioritizing evaluation questions, you can receive feedback about the evaluation questions from your grantors, donors, parents, students, staff, consultants, and other affiliated constituents.