Going to the Basics – Program Evaluation

retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/eval/guide/introduction/index.htm

As I am preparing myself to create and implement my first program evaluation, one of the first steps I have taken is to search into the basics of what it will entail. Being an educator I am frequently evaluating my students on their progress, and using a teacher evaluation system to reflect on my own practice. When it comes to taking it to the level of evaluating a program I am inexperienced.

ISTE Standards for Coaches #5 says “coaches plan, provide, and evaluate the impact of professional learning for educators and leaders to use technology to advance teaching and learning”. Shifting into a coaching role in my professional world, it may be required for me to evaluate programs from time to time so this is a skill that is worthwhile. In this blogpost, I will summarize the basics of my findings, using a broad scope that is applied to program evaluation as a whole and not focused on technology.

What is evaluation?

In Colin Robson’s book Small-Scale Evaluation, chapter 2 focuses on the what and why of evaluation. Robson goes on to provide examples of evaluations and what people may be looking for. He mentions that virtually anything can be evaluated, from services, programs, interventions or projects. A quote that stands out says “evaluation is concerned with finding something out about such well-intentioned things as the ones listed above” (10), referring to what can be evaluated.

“Finding something out” is a largely broad look at evaluation, but is a quick phrase that can be applied when explaining what is going on. Preparing to be the evaluator, this phrase helps me realize that there is not a right or wrong to what is found. The act of evaluating is looking to find the something, and to then report out. This could be related to effectiveness or needs. This ties in to why evaluate.

Why Evaluate?

The answer to this question depends entirely on who or what is setting up the evaluation. It could be required by a system or it could be due to concerns. It could be to look for reasons to keep something or to look for something new. In teaching, we evaluate so that we may provide instruction tailored to the needs of our students. When teachers are evaluated, it is to ultimately measure the effectiveness of the teacher. It is important to determine the why when setting up your evaluation. Like when we teach, if we don’t know our objective then we will not end up at the desired destination.

In my search, the broadest cause I have found for implementing an evaluation is change. If you look throughout history, we can see how things as simple as how we eat or prepare our food has changed. It is in human nature to look for a better way. If regular evaluations are not performed, programs will stalemate. One change that I am happy to see is the way professional development is being led.

Evaluation in Action

In the world of education, “professional development”, or PD is a topic that can instantly shift the mood in a room. Historically, PD has been a sit and get model. Educators come in, sit down, and listen to administration or a stranger tell them what to do. Frequently there will be a “do as I say and not as I do” approach as best practices for educating are brought up. I have been the educator in a PD who couldn’t tell you what or who spoke because they didn’t hold my interest for more than 5 minutes, so I spent my time finishing up emails or grading papers.

Using a system of evaluation, leaders have an opportunity to change the way they present information to their teachers. In some districts and schools, this is being done right now. In an article from ISTE Connect, there are some strategies for leading PD that have been effective in gaining teacher engagement. Here are my favorites:

  • Edcamp Style- Teachers are given a list of possible PD sessions. They fill their time with what they are interested in or what needs will be help with their practice
  • Lunch & Learn – This informal style of PD allows teachers to eat together while exploring a new tool. Because of the informal environment, teachers are able to feel comfortable playing around with the new tool
  • 5 Minute PD – Teachers were sent a short video demonstrating how to use a new tool. Because it was short, to the point, and a video recording teachers could go back and re-watch it as needed.


After dipping my toe in the water of program evaluation, I feel more confident in the setup of my own evaluation. With my why being to bring about a positive change (for whatever I decide on as my final project), I am excited to get started. The possibilities of what can be brought forward if we just listen to the data are endless. What are your thoughts on evaluation? Share below!


  • Beswick, Richard. (1990). Evaluating Educational Programs. ERIC Digest. Retrieved from https://www.ericdigests.org/pre-9217/programs.htm
  • Charles, Tatum B. (2019, September 6). Developing and Evaluating Educational Programs. The Essence. Retrieved from https://www.intechopen.com/books/the-essence-of-academic-performance/developing-and-evaluating-educational-programs
  • CDC. (2012, May 11). Program Evaluation Guide – Introduction. CDC. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/eval/guide/introduction/index.htm
  • Czyz, Rich (2015, October 28). Creating Innovative Professional Development Models In Your District. ISTE Connect. Retrieved from https://connect.iste.org/blogs/rich-czyz/2015/10/27/creating-innovative-professional-development-models-in-your-district
  • Robson, Colin. (2017). Small-Scale Evaluation – Principles and Practice. Sage.

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