Week 33: Keep it Simple

At my house, January is a month of resolutions, goals, and getting rid of excess (weight, clutter in the closets, and toys with missing parts). In the name of trimming and focusing on what is important for 2015, I am reminded of how this task applies to evaluation work as well. 

When conducting an evaluation, program metrics and measures should be kept as simple as possible so that all stakeholders and the public at large understand the outcomes of what is being measured. 

All too often within complicated programs and projects we get caught up in the magic of measuring more, assuming that is better…and even better than that…measuring even more with great specificity. Sometimes as evaluators we can go too deep into the weeds and lose the big picture of what change, outcome or finding we are trying to communicate.

Some “simple” reminders about measures and metrics are that they should be:

  • directly aligned to the overall goals or purpose of the evaluation
  • easily tracked and reported
  • summarized in a couple of words (i.e., it should not take several sentences to explain the caveats)
  • combined easily (i.e., 3 or 4 measures examined together) to paint an overall picture

As you cultivate your goals for 2015, I challenge you to consider “simplicity” as a worthwhile end-point for your evaluation and project planning.

KELLEY’S USEFUL TIP: When putting together an evaluation plan, start by writing the key finding you hope to report in your final deliverable (e.g., In 2015, X percent of students engaged in violent behavior, an X% change from previous years). From this point, you can work backwards to think about how you can best and most simply get the information you need.