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Many funding agencies ask for specific plans for formal evaluation or assessment of proposed education programs to determine whether the education interventions that are developed are actually serving the students or other intended audience. In many cases, the programs that you may be partnering with for Broader Impacts include evalution. For certain grant proposals, however, this may not be sufficient and you may need additional evaluation. 


What Does a Strong Evaluation Plan Look Like?


At its core, a good evaluation plan should involve both of the following:


  • Formative Evaluation – collecting feedback during the program so that improvements to the program can be implemented in real time
  • Summative Evaluation – measuring the level of success or proficiency attained by your audience after they’ve completed the program.


What Should I Evaluate?


A strong evaluation plan includes examples of the kinds of evaluation questions you’ll ask, as well as what you’re aiming to learn by asking those questions. You should be aiming to assess these kinds of outcomes for your audience:


  • Cognitive Outcomes – Knowledge of scientific content, acquisition of science practice skills/laboratory skills, research self-efficacy
  • Affective Outcomes – Increased enjoyment, interest, motivation to study the subject material
  • Behavioral Outcomes – Examples could include matriculation into a science career or enrolling in graduate school


Who Should Perform the Evaluation?


To bring legitimacy to your evaluation plan, it’s best to employ an external evaluator who has demonstrated professional experience in designing and conducting program evaluations. Utilizing an external evaluator also helps you avoid conflict of interest and ensure that your evaluation plan is unbiased, since the evaluator is an objective, neutral third party. 



Where Can I Find an External Evaluator?


The the Office of Institutional Research and Analytics, led by Kathryn Hendren, designs and implements assessment tools for STEM education programs. Contact Kathryn for a consultation at kathryn.hendren@austin.utexas.edu. In addition, TACC's EPIC STEM Evaluation Services can help you assess and strengthen your program. Learn more here