1. Project Clarification: What is the nature of the project?
- What is the focus of the project?
- What is the scope of the project?
- What are the intended outcomes?
- What are the operational processes developed to achieve the outcomes?
- What is the conceptual and theoretical framework underpinning the project?
- What is the context of the project?
- What key values drive the project?
Before any planning for an evaluation of a project can begin, it is essential that there be a clear and comprehensive mapping of the project itself. This should have been done in the grant application, however a useful first step in planning an evaluation should be to clarify and confirm the program focus processes and intended outcomes. Some key elements to address in this regard include:
Focus of the project - What is at the core of the project? What issue(s) is it fundamentally aiming to address?
Scope of the project - What are its boundaries? What will be included and what will be excluded? Over what time period will it operate? Which parts of the organization(s) will be involved? Which particular staff or students or other individuals or organisations will be included?
Intended outcomes1 - What specifically is the project designed to achieve? This needs to be spelt out in detail, for example in terms of specific knowledge and skills to be gained by participants, or specific changes in the ways that staff or students operate. The outcomes need to be specified to the point of being measurable or at least identified in sufficient detail to enable an evaluator subsequently to determine the extent to which they have been achieved.
Operational processes1 - What activities and procedures will be developed as part of the project in order to achieve the intended outcomes? What is the basis for expecting that these particular activities and procedures will lead to the intended outcomes within the project's particular context?
Conceptual and theoretical framework - What are the key concepts underpinning the project and how are they linked to each other? What is the body of theory in which the project is located and how does it fit with that theory?
Context of the project - What are the key features of the institutional context in which the project will operate? In what ways will these help and hinder in conducting the project and in achieving its intended outcomes? Are there other contexts, such as the broader higher education context or individual participant contexts, that will also influence the project's operation and outcomes? If so, in what ways will these contexts help and hinder the achievement of the project outcomes?
Key values - What are the values that drive the project? To what extent are the project's intended processes and outcomes consistent with and reflective of these values?
1 Outcomes and processes can be seen as two elements within the following framework.
Inputs - the resources put into the project to enable it to occur, e.g. time and expertise, materials, facilities and equipment.
Processes - the project's procedures and activities, e.g. workshop activities, planning sessions, individual and group tasks, analysis of data, project management.
Outputs - products of the project, e.g. number of workshops conducted, number of staff trained, number of students achieving intended results.
Outcomes - effects of the project on target groups, e.g. changes in knowledge and skill levels of staff or students, may be short-term or longer-term.
Impacts - cumulative effects of the project over time, e.g. fundamental changes in the ways that staff undertake a particular set of responsibilities, which are often not observable or directly measurable within the timeframe or influence of a single project.