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EvaluATE’s external evaluators at The Rucks Group reviewed the evaluation plans in a random sample of 169 ATE proposals across 14 years. They found that most proposals from the later years included most of the key information related to evaluator identification. In this blog post, we share tips about what to do and not to do when describing who will evaluate the ATE project you are proposing to NSF.

Identifying Your Evaluator: What to Do

The current NSF ATE program solicitation states that grant seekers should identify their project’s external evaluator in their project descriptions. EvaluATE recommends that ATE proposers should include the following details to demonstrate they are working with a qualified evaluator:

  • The name of the evaluator and their organization
  • The evaluator’s qualifications, including their evaluation training (if applicable) and experience evaluating STEM education programs
  • A biosketch for the evaluator

Including these key pieces of information about your evaluator shows that you’re serious about evaluation and understand the value of working with a professional evaluator.

Here’s an example of a proposal that succinctly communicates key information about the evaluator:

Dr. Maria Diaz, principal at Quest Evaluation, will lead the external evaluation of our project. Diaz has over a decade of experience evaluating secondary and postsecondary STEM education initiatives.

While quite short, this statement communicates that Dr. Diaz is a professional evaluator with substantial relevant expertise.

Including your evaluator’s biosketch with your proposal’s supplementary documents provides additional evidence of their readiness to evaluate your project.

Identifying Your Evaluator: What Not to Do

Don’t leave out information about your evaluator’s evaluation-specific qualifications.

ATE proposal writers often identify the evaluator and then make one of two common mistakes. The first is to focus on the evaluator’s relevant STEM experience but not their relevant evaluation experience. Here’s what that can look like:

Dr. Sandy Thomas, Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering Physics, will be the project’s evaluator…. Dr. Thomas is currently engaged in publishing on topics regarding curriculum development related to nanotechnology.

This example focuses on STEM-related experience, but it’s missing information about evaluation-specific experience, such as advanced evaluation training, experience conducting STEM education programs, or leadership in the evaluation field. This approach will not convince proposal reviewers that the selected evaluator knows how to design, implement, and manage a program evaluation.

The second common mistake: stating that the evaluator is qualified, but not giving any details about their specific qualifications. Here’s an example:

Dr. Giselle Smith, Research Associate at the University Assessment Center, will serve as the project’s evaluator. Dr. Smith is a highly qualified and experienced evaluator.

This example fails to convey the evaluator’s expertise in program evaluation, since it is unclear what her responsibilities are at the assessment center where she works.

Other Tips

Some colleges’ procurement policies do not allow selection of contractors or consultants outside of a formal bidding process. If that’s the case at your institution, your proposal should describe the process by which an evaluator will be selected should the proposal be funded. Include the criteria you’ll use to make sure the evaluator is qualified (e.g., evaluation-specific experience or education). This will help demonstrate that you understand the importance of having a qualified evaluator on board.

Resources

For more tips about describing evaluation plans in ATE proposals, check out the Evaluation Plan Checklist for ATE Proposals and related resources in EvaluATE’s Evaluation Plan Toolkit for ATE Proposals. To learn more about EvaluATE’s review of ATE proposal evaluation plans, view the overview of findings, the scoring rubric, or our article in the American Journal of Evaluation.

About the Authors

Kelly Robertson

Kelly Robertson box with arrow

Principal Research Associate, The Evaluation Center, Western Michigan University

Kelly has a Ph.D. in evaluation and more than eight years of experience in the field of evaluation. She works as a Senior Research Associate at The Evaluation Center at Western Michigan University. Dr. Robertson has worked on evaluations at the local, regional, national, and international levels, spanning a wide variety of sectors (e.g., STEM education, adult education, career and technical education, and evaluation capacity development). Her research interests primarily focus on evaluation as it relates to equity, cultural competence, and making evaluation more user-friendly. She, along with Dr. Lori Wingate, led the development of The Evaluation Center's online training program, Valeo (valeoeval.com).

Lori Wingate

Lori Wingate box with arrow

Executive Director, The Evaluation Center, Western Michigan University

Lori has a Ph.D. in evaluation and more than 20 years of experience in the field of program evaluation. She is co-principal investigator of EvaluATE and leads a variety of evaluation projects at WMU focused on STEM education, health, and higher education initiatives. Dr. Wingate has led numerous webinars and workshops on evaluation in a variety of contexts, including CDC University and the American Evaluation Association Summer Evaluation Institute. She is an associate member of the graduate faculty at WMU. She, along with Dr. Kelly Robertson, led the development of The Evaluation Center's online training program, Valeo (valeoeval.com)

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