Just as you can be tangled up in the differences among mission, goals, objectives, and activities, so too can the various types of evaluation be confusing. It is a science that often seems mysterious, understandable only by highly paid experts. But you are really just exploring what happens to participants during program sessions. This exploration is usually defined as either process or outcome evaluation:
Two concepts nearly identical to process and outcome are formative and summative evaluation:
Evaluation expert Robert Stakes explains the difference this way: “When the cook tastes the soup, that’s formative; when the guests taste the soup, that’s summative.” 91
Qualitative and quantitative are perhaps the most common terms in evaluation. They describe the type of information collected, the method of collection, and the analysis. The qualitative method is further characterized as “deep” and the quantitative method as objective.
Type: Anecdotes, reactions, impressions, and feelings
Method: Interviews, observations, focus groups, and journals
Analysis: Words, pictures, and objects
Type: Numbers and statistics
Method: Surveys and questionnaires
Analysis: Numerical data
In reality, the distinction between methods is not absolute. Surveys, in particular, often include questions that elicit qualitative information—for example, those that assess satisfaction or quality—and interviews can collect demographic data.
Not surprisingly, evaluation experts sometimes disagree over definitions. Craig Dreeszen’s advice is helpful: “Don’t panic about variations in evaluation jargon. Just be sure that folks within your organization know what you are talking about.” 92
Appendix 7: Evaluation Tools