According to the Web Center for Research Methods, evaluation entails systematic gathering of data as a way to gain feedback to inform decisions. Because evaluation research takes place in political and organizational settings--where it can have a fairly immediate impact on decisions that affect people’s lives--evaluation researchers need interpersonal and organizational skills that are not as important for purely academic social research. Specific purposes for conducting evaluation research vary considerably.
The New Zealand Aid and Development Agency has outlined the purposes for evaluation research. It points out that evaluation research is a fundamental tool for assuring accountability. If an organization receives a grant to successfully implement a particular program, an evaluation of the program’s effectiveness could be the deciding factor regarding the grant’s renewal.
Learn From Process
Sometimes evaluation data is collected during the implementation of a program. This kind of study often focuses on the process of implementation and provides information about whether there is a need to change direction or alter procedures. It’s similar to conducting a pilot study when the researchers only implement a part of a total program. They do so in order to get an inexpensive indication of whether it looks like it will work when fully implemented.
Learn From Outcomes
If the evaluation is conducted at the end of the project--or at the end of a phase of a project--the results can inform decisions about continuation, termination or revision of procedures and practices. If an evaluation study shows that an innovative way of teaching first graders produces test scores significantly higher than traditional methods, that’s hard evidence that the new approach is worth keeping.
Provide Information For Stakeholders
The use of results from evaluation research goes beyond convincing grant organizations or investors to continue spending money on a program. They are also important for keeping various stakeholders informed about what an organization is doing and its accomplishments. For example, an evaluation of a successful education program can be used to gain support from parents for the program’s continuation.
Obstacles To The Use Of Evaluation Research Results
The goal of evaluation research is to improve practice and effectiveness. However, the results of evaluation research conducted in real-life settings can be threatening, as they may suggest that change is needed. A negative evaluation can mean that someone’s pet project will no longer be funded. Jobs may even be lost or greatly redefined. Ideally the results will be applied as intended. They're designed to improve practice and increase effectiveness.