Evaluation is the process of determining the worth of a program. A plan must be made to accurate evaluate any type of program, whether it is a training course or concerns the effectiveness of and customer satisfaction with a new product. Many different types and methods of evaluation are available depending on the information that needs to be assessed.
Formative evaluations are evaluations that occur during the process. These evaluations are used to measure how well the process is proceeding overall and if changes are necessary. For example, in an educational setting, a teacher may ask the students to write a short paper reflecting on the topic just presented. The teacher can look at these reflections to determine if the students are understanding the material and make changes in their instruction to help students as they progress in the classroom.
The summative evaluation occurs at the end of the program. The evaluation considers the effectiveness of the program as a whole and makes suggestions to improve it. Businesses, for example, may ask that consumers complete surveys and questionnaires after services have been rendered to gather information. This information can help businesses learn if additional training of its employees needs to be completed or if the products and services it offers meet the needs of its clients.
Process evaluations focuses on how a program was implemented and how it operates. The goal of the process evaluation is to see if the program is meeting its intended goals. The evaluation includes looking at how the program is delivered, the services it delivers and how it was carried out. Process evaluation can determine why a program was successful or unsuccessful and provides information such as whether the program can be replicated.
Impact evaluations measure the program's effects and the overall effectiveness of realizing the goals of the program. The most effective impact evaluations are those that occur over longer periods of time as opposed to those programs that evaluate the immediate before and after of a program. Long-term evaluations give a broader, more complete view of the outcomes of the program. Impact evaluations tend to be more expensive due to the time frames involved, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
Outcome evaluations measure the short-term impact of implementing programs. The evaluation gives information on how well the program is reaching its target audience. This can help gauge the initial impact a program has and how the program is being received. The outcome evaluation is able to assess the changing attitudes and knowledge of the target audience.