Friday, February 3, 2012

AEA365 Tip-A-Day Series

The American Evaluation Association (AEA) sponsors a tip-a-day series, written by established and emerging evaluators.

We enjoyed the distinct pleasure of having an article featured on February 2, 2012 titled Grasshopper Moments: The Kung-Fu Masters of Process Evaluation. I've cut and pasted the piece into this blog.

However, I also share the link to AEA365, so that you can read all of the great posts and learn from others working in the field of evaluation! As well, you can click the links embedded in the post to access the resources described under Rad Resources. Enjoy!

Catherine (Brehm) Rain on Grasshopper Moments: The Kung-Fu Masters of Process Evaluation
Posted: 01 Feb 2012 12:33 AM PST

I’m Catherine (Brehm) Rain of Rain and Brehm Consulting Group, Inc., an independent research and evaluation firm in Rockledge, Florida. I specialize in Process Evaluation, which answers the questions Who, What, When, Where and How in support of the Outcome Evaluation. Field evaluations occur in chaotic environments where change is a constant. Documenting and managing change using process methods help inform and explain outcomes.

Lesson Learned: If you don’t know what or how events influenced a program, chances are you won’t be able to explain the reasons for its success or failure.

Lesson Learned: I’m a technology fan, but I’m also pretty old-school. Like Caine in the legendary TV show Kung Fu, I frequently conjure up the process evaluation ‘masters’ of the 1980s and ‘90s to strengthen the foundation of my practice and to regenerate those early ‘Grasshopper’ moments of my career.

Old-school? Or enticingly relevant? You decide, Grasshopper! I share a few with you.

Hot Tip: Process evaluation ensures you answer questions of fidelity (to the grant, program and evaluation plan): did you do what you set out to with respect to needs, population, setting, intervention and delivery? When these questions are answered, a feedback loop is established so that necessary modifications to the program or the evaluation can be made along the way.

Rad Resource: Workbook for Designing a Process Evaluation, produced by the State of Georgia, contains hands-on tools and walk-through mechanics for creating a process evaluation. The strategies incorporate the research of several early masters, including three I routinely follow: Freeman, Hawkins and Lipsey.

Hot Tip: Life is a journey—and so is a long-term evaluation. Stuff happens. However, it is often in the chaotic that we find the nugget of truth, the unknown need, or a new direction to better serve constituents. A well-documented process evaluation assists programs to ‘turn on a dime’, adapt to changing environments and issues, and maximize outcome potential.

Rad Resource: Principles and Tools for Evaluating Community-Based Prevention and Health Promotion Programs by Robert Goodman includes content on the FORECAST Model designed by two of my favorites (Goodman & Wandersman), which enables users to plot anticipated activities against resultant deviations or modifications in program and evaluation.

Hot Tip: If you short shrift process evaluation, you may end up with Type III error primarily because the program you evaluated is not the program you thought you evaluated!

Rad Resource: Process Evaluation for Public Health Research and Evaluations: An Overview by Linnan and Steckler discusses Type III error avoidance as a function of process evaluation. As well, the authors discuss the historical evolution of process evaluation by several masters including but not limited to Cook, Glanz and Pirie.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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