New ATE project principal investigators (PIs): When you worked with your evaluator to develop an evaluation plan for your project proposal, you were probably focused on the big picture—how to gather credible and meaningful evidence about the quality and impact of your work. To ensure your evaluation achieves its aims, take these three steps now to make sure your project provides the human resources, time, and information needed for a successful evaluation:
- Schedule regular meetings with your evaluator. Regular meetings help ensure that your project’s evaluation receives adequate attention. These exchanges should be in real time—via phone call, web meetings, or face-to-face—not just email. See EvaluATE’s new Communication Plan Checklist for ATE PIs and Evaluators for a list of other communication issues to discuss with your evaluator at the start of a project.
- Work with your evaluator to create a project evaluation calendar. This calendar should span the life of your project and include the following:
- Due dates for National Science Foundation (NSF) annual reports: You should include your evaluation reports or at least information from the evaluation in these reports. Work backward from their due dates to determine when evaluation reports should be completed. To find out when your annual report is due, go to Research.gov, enter your NSF login information, select “Awards & Reporting,” then “Project Reports.”
- Advisory committee meeting dates: You may want your evaluator to attend these meetings to learn more about your project and to communicate directly with committee members.
- Project events: Activities such as workshops and outreach events present valuable opportunities to collect data directly from the individuals involved in the project. Make sure your evaluator is aware of them.
- Due dates for new proposal submissions: If submitting to NSF again, you will need to include evidence of your current project’s intellectual merit and broader impacts. Working with your evaluator now will ensure you have compelling evidence to support a future submission.
- Keep track of what you’re doing and who is involved. Don’t leave these tasks to your evaluator or wait until the last minute. Taking an active—and proactive—role in documenting the project’s work will save you time and result in more accurate information. Your evaluator can then use that information when preparing their reports. Moreover, you will find it immensely useful to have good documentation at your fingertips when preparing your annual NSF report.
- Maintain a record of project activities and products—such as conference presentations, trainings, outreach events, competitions, publications—as they are completed. Check out EvaluATE’s project vita as an example.
- Create a participant database (or spreadsheet): Everyone who engages with your project should be listed. Record their contact information, role in the project, and pertinent demographic characteristics (such as whether a student is a first-generation college student, a veteran, or part of a group that has been historically underrepresented in STEM). You will probably find several uses for this database, such as for follow-up with participants for evaluation purposes, for outreach, and as evidence of your project’s broader impacts.
An ounce of prevention is worth of pound of cure: Investing time up front to make sure your evaluation is on solid footing will save headaches down the round.
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