Program Evaluation: Background and Methods
Definition of evaluation: the process of determining the worth or merit of something; if "something" is a program, then it's "program evaluation." Other types of evaluation include: product evaluation (most widely practiced, e.g., Consumer Reports); personnel evaluation; research evaluation; policy studies; art, movie, play, and book reviews.

Program evaluation is NOT the same as research although they share many characteristics--Both:

Program evaluation focuses on decisions. Research focuses on answering questions about phenomena to discover new knowledge and test theories/hypotheses. Research is aimed at truth. Evaluation is aimed at action.

Purposes of Program Evaluation (based on decisions to be made):

Methodology: There are benefits and drawbacks to any method used in research/evaluation. Choices of method is based on questions to be answered, weighing costs and benefits of the method, and evaluation purpose (see attached).

"Best practice" in evaluation involves multiple methods and multiple perspectives.

Standards: Most program evaluators abide by a set of standards such as The Program Evaluation Standards developed by The Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation.

Standards ensure:

Reliable - consistency of measurement (e.g., several observers should report similarly using same instrument - "interrater reliability").

Valid - measuring what is purported to be measured (e.g., many new instruments have been developed based on new science standards, so what they measure is adherence to the new standards).

Case Study Bibliography

Bogan, Robert C. and Biklen, Sari Knopp, Qualitative Research for Education: An Introduction to Theory and Methods, Allyn and Bacon, Inc., 1982.

Morgan, David L., Focus Groups as Qualitative Research, Qualitative Research Methods Series 16, Sage Publications, !988.

Stake, Robert E., The Art of Case Study Research, Sage Publications, 1995.

Yin, Robert K., Case Study Research: Design and Methods, Applied Social Research Methods Series, Vol. 5, Sage Publications, 1989.