A collaborative evaluation is one “in which there is a significant degree of collaboration or cooperation between evaluators and stakeholders in planning and/or conducting the evaluation.”1

Project leaders who are new to grant project evaluation may assume that evaluation is something that is done to them, rather than something they do with an evaluator. Although the degree of collaboration may vary, it is generally advisable for project leaders to work closely with their evaluators on the following tasks:

Define the focus of an evaluation: Be clear about what you, as a project leader, need to learn from the evaluation to help improve your work and what you need to be able to report to NSF to demonstrate accountability and impact.

Minimize barriers to data collection: Inform your evaluator about the best times and places to gather data. If the evaluator needs to collect data directly from students or faculty, an advance note from you or another respected individual from your institution can help a great deal. Help your evaluator connect with your institutional research office or other sources of organizational data.

Review data collection instruments: Your evaluator has expertise in evaluation and research methods, but you know your project’s content area and audience best. Review instruments (e.g., questionnaires, interview/focus group protocols) to ensure they make sense for your audience.

To learn more, visit the website of the American Evaluation Association’s topical interest group on collaborative, participatory, and empowerment evaluation: (bit.ly/cpe-tig).

1Cousins, J. B., Donohue, J. J., & Bloom, G. A. (1996). Collaborative evaluation in North America: Evaluators’ self-reported opinions, practices and consequences. American Journal of Evaluation, 17(3), p. 210.

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Emma Binder

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