Accountability is Crucial

To meet the requirements of today’s funding agencies, outreach program development must be partnered with an evaluation strategy

Evaluation is most commonly used only to assess the outcomes of outreach efforts, but this is not the best or most cost effective use of your outreach development budget. The best way to ensure the greatest impact of your outreach efforts on your intended audience is to employ research and evaluation techniques at every stage of the development process.

Three stages of research/evaluation exist to support the development and delivery of your outreach or education efforts: Front End, Formative, and Summative. The best outreach efforts begin with Front End research, and if you have a limited outreach budget, spending a portion of that budget on Front End research is the best way to ensure a more successful outcome.  Details on each type of research/evaluation are outlined in greater detail below.


Research and Evaluation

  1. BulletFront end research

  2. Decision making

  3. Front end evaluation or research is applied before committing resources to final product development. Front end work serves two purposes: 1. To help you define and understand your intended audiences so you can be assured that your messages will be appropriately directed and received. 2. To help you define, narrow and test specific content messages and communication methods before proceeding with development.

  4. R

  5. R

  6. BulletFormative evaluation

  7. Refinement

  8. Formative evaluation serves as a feedback mechanism to identify and resolve problems with communication initiatives.  It occurs once objectives are established and defined and when test materials have been drafted, but before interpretive strategies are too far along to be modified.  This step allows you to test your ideas with intended audiences to gauge the effectiveness of the  communication effort before the final product is created.

  9. R

  10. R

  11. BulletSummative evaluation

  12. Impact

  13. Summative evaluation reveals the impact of your outreach efforts on your audience(s). If you have received grant funding to develop outreach or other education materials, your funder will hold you accountable for the quality of the outreach* .  A variety of techniques can be used to measure both learning outcomes and attitude changes ultimately revealing where your efforts were most successful.

  14. R

  15. * This is why engaging in evaluation during the development stages of your outreach efforts are of paramount importance.

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“Science is much more than a body of knowledge. It is a way of thinking. [It] invites us to let the facts in, even when they don’t conform to our preconceptions. It urges on us a fine balance between openness to new ideas and the most rigorous skeptical scrutiny. We need wide appreciation of this kind of thinking. It's an essential tool for a democracy in an age of change. Our task is not just to train more scientists but also to deepen public understanding of science.”

Carl Sagan                                       

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