As a part of my practicum and the implementation of the Legal Health Check-Up, I have had the opportunity to develop and implement an evaluation plan. The process of evaluation began when I first started to implement the project, however, I now see the importance in a thorough evaluation plan prior to beginning a new project. This realization has been a large learning curve throughout my practicum experience. By creating a very detailed evaluation plan during the program planning process, you are making sure there is a high level of accountability involved throughout the entire process.
One area of evaluation that I am familiar with is the concept of Program Logic Models. An article I read recently, “Program Logic Models: Expanding Their Role and Structure for Program Planning and Evaluation” gave new insight into the use of logic models in the work of evaluation.
The first concept that was difficult to grasp when developing an evaluation plan, was the difference between program, activities, outputs, and outcomes – all while understanding their relationship to one another. It has also been important to identify that there are different types of outcomes – my learning from this is that it is important to understand the short-term and long-term outcomes that are expected of a program.
Further to this, my biggest take away from the above mentioned article, is the idea that log models can be used for both program planning and evaluation. That being said, when being used program planning – the logic model will be developed from the bottom up, starting with outcomes and working your way up to program activities. This differs from the usual effort of creating a logic model for evaluation, where you would take a top-down approach. This would involve beginning with program activities and working your way down to identify the outcomes.
My experience in my practicum so far, and the literature I have reviewed have made it apparent that there is a strong benefit in having different people involved in the program planning/management process and the evaluation process. It has been my experience that wearing both hats can prove to be confusing and you may hold some bias one way or another because there is a clear investment in the project. I would be interested to know how my experience would be different if I focused solely on program planning/management or program evaluation.