Just like outputs and outcomes, evaluation questions and method questions often get confused. How many people attended our early literacy program? That is NOT an evaluation question. That question can be answered without doing evaluation at all – and the answer to it is an output NOT an outcome. Guiding evaluation questions look at the big picture. What are you really trying to accomplish? You want to put your nonprofit out of business right? So, what needs to be done to do that? If your organization’s mission is to provide job training, then a guiding evaluation question likely would be – To what extent are we providing individuals with the skills they need to find meaningful work?
The evaluator, project lead, or program staff will usually develop the guiding evaluation questions. These questions will be developed using the evaluation purpose and program information. Most commonly, an evaluation is conducted to determine the merit/worth of the program (and/or for program improvement). In that case, the program’s logic model would be used to help develop the guiding evaluation questions (look at the program outcomes).
Remember, guiding evaluation questions are NOT the same questions that would be on a survey. For example, “How often do participants attend the early literacy program?” is NOT a guiding evaluation – “To what extent does the early literacy program impact reading ability?” IS a guiding evaluation question.
Photo Credit: Horia Varlan