Evaluating STEM Activities and Projects
Evaluation is an extremely important element of all educational enhancement projects. It is vital for obtaining evidence based data that indicates the impact your work is having and to enable you to disseminate ‘what works and why?’ in order to allow you to share your learning and experiences more widely.
Good evaluation practice includes:
- Building in evaluation from the start of a project;
- Establishing a baseline to ensure that impact can be measured over time;
- Including evaluation as a standing item at steering group or project monitoring meetings;
- Using consistent and robust data collection tools;
- Collaborating with all stakeholders and participants in evaluation activities.
There can sometimes be confusion as to what is meant by evaluation and monitoring. In essence monitoring is about ensuring that an activity is on track – which mainly involves counting things. Evaluation is not just about measuring numbers – it is important to collect qualitative information and to understand why changes occur. Good evaluation will help you to understand whether you achieved what you set out to, how well you did it, what impact your activity has had, and to reflect critically on the activities and processes used.
Every project is different and so it is not appropriate to prescribe a specific evaluation approach. However, all projects, large and small, should be asking themselves some common questions and ensuring that they collect evidence to back up all statements they make about the impact of their activities. This will be enormously beneficial to support project leads with the development of final case study reports (please visit our Resources area to find National HE STEM Programme guidance on writing a final report.)
1. What will success for your project look like?
(When considering this it is useful to reflect on intended project outcomes)
2. Where were you at the outset of this project?
(Establishing a baseline is an important factor against which to evidence progress)
3. What do you anticipate will happen that would not have happened if the project had not gone ahead?
(The evidence for impact will be a core element of your future case study)
4. How will you know that you have been successful i.e. what evidence will you rely on?
Projects are encouraged to consider their approach to evaluation as early as possible. The importance of capturing the learning, both successes and failures, that might otherwise be lost cannot be over emphasised. Members of the National HE STEM Programme team will be happy to provide advice and guidance to support the evaluation of STEM projects and activities, please feel free to contact us
Resources To support the evaluation of National HE STEM Programme funded projects, we have developed a number of resources and tools which project leads may find useful. (We also recognise that a number of very helpful resources already exist !) Although the materials and resources have been developed with National HE STEM Programme funded projects in mind, they will be useful for anyone undertaking similar activities within higher education.
Useful materials, tools and links. (This includes material developed by the National HE STEM Programme and others.)