3.4 Using Assessments in Evaluations
Assessments used in evaluations are not much different from the standalone assessments discussed in Section 2. Since evaluations ask deep and complex questions, however, they typically involve multiple assessments to help build a better picture and construct stronger evidence.
Assessments used in evaluations need to be tied directly to the outcome or outcomes you are evaluating. You need to choose indicators that will provide measurable ways to show the impact of your initiative in relation to that outcome. To determine the appropriate indicators for your project, look at one of your outcomes and ask “How will I know it when I see it?” 1
Just as the outcomes of connected learning are often nontraditional, so are the indicators. Using a variety of indicators to answer a single question can help triangulate your interpretations. (The same indicator can also be used to answer multiple questions sometimes.) Traditional library assessment measures (number of attendees, number of questions asked, how often a resource is used, patron satisfaction) play an important role and can be part of your evaluation. However, in a connected learning evaluation, they should exist in support of other measures.
DON’T START WITH INDICATORS
Don’t start with indicators! Start by determining your desired outcomes. If you start with measures, you run the risk of defaulting to only the easiest and most obvious measures.2 The outcomes of connected learning can be much richer than that. Start with the outcomes, and then figure out the best way to measure your progress towards those outcomes
1: Principal Investigator’s Guide: Managing Evaluation in Informal STEM Education Projects, by R. Bonney, K. Ellenbogen, L. Goodyear, & R. Hellenga, p. 51. Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education, 2001.