ADAPTING EVALUATION DESIGN TO DATA REALITIES
“What is your biggest challenge working as an ATE evaluator?” Twenty-three evaluators who applied for funding from EvaluATE to attend the 2016 Advanced Technological Education Principal Investigators Conference gave us their opinions on that topic. One of the most common responses was along the lines of “insufficient data.” In this issue of EvaluATE’s newsletter, we highlight resources that evaluators and project staff can turn to when plans need to be adjusted to ensure an evaluation has adequate data. (Another common theme was “communication between project and evaluation personnel,” but that’s for a future newsletter issue).
One of the biggest challenges many evaluators encounter is getting people to participate in data collection efforts, such as surveys and focus groups. In her latest contribution to EvaluATE’s blog, Lori Wingate discusses Scavenging Evaluation Data. She identifies two ways to get useful data that don’t require the cooperation of project participants.
RealWorld Evaluation is a popular text among evaluators because the authors recognize that evaluations are often conducted under less-than-ideal circumstances with limited resources. Check out the companion website, which includes a free 20-page PDF summary of the book.
Check Timing When Changing Plans
For ATE projects, it is OK to use data collection methods that were not included in the original evaluation plan—as long as there is a good rationale. But be realistic about how much time it takes to develop new data collection instruments and protocols. For a reality check, see the Time Frame Estimates for Common Data Collection Activities in Guidelines for Working with Third-Party Evaluators.
Repurpose Existing Data
Having trouble getting data from project participants? Try using secondary data to supplement your primary evaluation data. In Look No Further: Potential Sources of Institutional Data, institutional research professionals from the University of Washington Bothell describe several types of institutional data that can be used in project evaluations at colleges and universities.
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