Program Evaluation


Units: 12


Pre-Requisite(s): 90-711 or 90-777. In all parts of the world, from the local to the global level, governments, funding agencies, organizations, and individuals are involved in activities meant to improve some aspect of people’s lives – disaster relief in Haiti, human rights work in Sierra Leone, increasing school attendance in Detroit or improving outcomes for IV drug users in Barcelona, the list is long and ever changing. The needs addressed by these programs are often compelling and the programs themselves can be innovative, practical, and inspired. From those running and funding social programs to those whose needs are meant to be addressed by these programs a central question arises: Does this social program work? In this course you will learn how to gather and synthesize evidence to address this question. Program evaluation is the systematic application of social science methods to assess each aspect of a program: the need for the program, the program's design and implementation, and ultimately the program’s impact on relevant outcomes. A completed program evaluation results in (1) information regarding the program’s merit, worth, or significance, (2) an accounting of the objective strengths and limitations of this information and (3) the implications of both (1) and (2) for decision making. Program evaluations differ as much as the social programs they evaluate. Social programs may carry them out internally, or an external organization may be brought in. An evaluation may be highly quantitative or entirely qualitative; it may focus exclusively on needs assessment or assessing program implementation. Evaluations and their results may be highly politically charged or of interest only to direct stakeholders. There are excellent program evaluations that have had tremendous positive impacts on programs and their target populations. There are also poor or flawed program evaluations that provide weaker information than could have been obtained, provide incorrect information, or are misleading. This course is designed to familiarize the student with the central concepts and methods of program evaluation. Students will be taught how to conduct basic program evaluations as well as how to critique and monitor more comprehensive program evaluations. Successful completion of this course will prepare students to be contributing members of teams that design and carry out program evaluations or that commission program evaluations and make decisions based upon their results.

Learning Outcomes

• Be a valuable member of an evaluation team, able to contribute to both planning and execution, while having a solid foundation on which to build.

• Be an informed consumer of program evaluations, and assist governments, agencies or funding organizations in making decisions based on evaluations.

• Differentiate between strengths, limitations, and weaknesses of an evaluation and of a program, and communicate those distinctions clearly.

• Understand the methods and concepts introduced in the course, AND be able to explain them clearly, in plain language, to diverse stakeholders with diverse backgrounds.

• Identify when each method for evidence gathering and analysis would be appropriate or inappropriate, and defend those assessments.

• Explain to a newly elected official how to best think about assessing government programs.

Prerequisites Description

90707 or 90711 or 90777