Evaluation Reporting and Dissemination
Writing the Evaluation Report
What goes into an evaluation report and how it is reported depends on the evaluation audience and how they intend to use that information. How do evaluators determine what information is useful to their various reporting audiences? First, they must identify stakeholders and their information needs. What might be useful to one stakeholder may not be useful to another. In the Encyclopedia of Evaluation, Torres (2005) describes three distinct audiences for evaluations: primary, secondary, and tertiary. Primary audiences are often the individuals who fund or run the program and will use the results to make decisions about the project. This audience would also be considered the primary intended users of the evaluation (Patton, 2012). Secondary audiences have limited direct involvement with running the project but are still interested in the evaluation report because the results may affect them in some way. This audience includes program participants and staff in the organization. Tertiary audiences may or may not have a connection to the program, but they are still interested in hearing about the program and seeing the results of the evaluation. This audience includes the public, ISE professionals, and other evaluators.
After an evaluator has identified their stakeholders and information needs, they should think about the report format. The report has many purposes and may need to be presented in multiple formats to accomplish its objectives. Example reporting formats include data dashboards, PowerPoint presentations, one-page summaries, and more formal written reports. Within the evaluation field there has been a strong emphasis on the use of visualizations when sharing findings in evaluation reports. We’ve gathered a collection of sites to help you create your own stunning data visualizations.
Disseminating Evaluation Results
There are many ways to disseminate evaluation results beyond the project team. This might include annual reports, program brochures, social media, listservs, or policy briefs. Evaluators may also share their work by presenting at a professional association’s conference or submitting an article to an evaluation-related journal. Most importantly, don’t forget to share your evaluation report with the field by posting it here on InformalScience.org! Looking for more information about evaluation reporting and dissemination? Check out the resources below.
Reporting and Dissemination Resources
Chapter 6 of the Principal Investigator’s Guide to Managing Evaluation in Informal STEM Education Projects provides guidance for PIs as they work with evaluators around evaluation reporting and dissemination. The chapter focuses on reporting summative evaluations, connecting with key stakeholders, and strategies for presenting and communicating results.
This guide from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention focuses on evaluation use through evaluation reporting. The guide addresses the following topics: key considerations for effectively reporting evaluation findings, essential elements of evaluation reporting, and the importance of dissemination.
The Evaluation Report Checklist is a useful tool to guide discussions between evaluators and their clients regarding the preferred contents of evaluation reports. It can also serve as a checklist for evaluators as they write evaluation reports.
This checklist from EvaluATE, the evaluation support center for the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education program, identifies and describes the elements of a project or program's evaluation report. It is intended to serve as a flexible guide for determining an evaluation report's content.
This blog post and corresponding white paper from the Building Informal Science Education (BISE) project address the question, “How can evaluators help to ensure reports they share online are useful to other evaluators?” The BISE project team analyzed 520 evaluation reports on informalscience.org to create set of guiding questions evaluators can ask themselves as they prepare a report to share with an evaluator audience on sites such as informalscience.org.
The Potent Presentations Initiative, sponsored by the American Evaluation Association, has the explicit purpose of helping evaluators improve their presentation skills, both at evaluation conferences and in their individual evaluation practice. On this site you’ll find a range of resources and guidance helpful for developing slide presentations and posters.
There is a big focus in the evaluation field around the use of data visualizations to make reports more interesting and understandable for stakeholders. These are just a few of the many resources available to help evaluators reframe how they think about and visualize data.
This topical interest group (TIG) is a great place to learn more about data visualization and reporting. The TIG’s website provides evaluators with links to lots of useful resources such as blogs posts, presentations, webinars, eStudies, online software tools, data visualizations examples, and much more!
Ann K. Emery’s website provides blog posts, tools, video tutorials, and Excel tips for creating visualizations. This site also includes a chart-choosing tool, which allows evaluators to look at resources, tutorials, and examples by chart type.
Stephanie Evergreen’s blog shares a wide range of tips, advice, how-to’s, and illustrative examples of data visualizations. The site also has information about her two books Effective Data Visualization and Presenting Data Effectively.
The Data Visualization Checklist, created by Stephanie Evergreen and Ann K. Emery, is a tool to guide the development of high impact data visualizations. The checklist is based on best practices and tested against the practical day-to-day realities of evaluation practice and the pragmatic needs of evaluation stakeholders. The checklist includes guidelines related to text, colors, lines, arrangement of graphic elements, and overall design.
In 2013, the American Evaluation Association published two special issues of New Directions for Evaluation on data visualization and evaluation. Part 1 introduces recent developments in the quantitative and qualitative data visualization field and provides a historical perspective on data visualization, its potential role in evaluation practice, and future directions. Part 2 delivers concrete suggestions for optimally using data visualization in evaluation, as well as suggestions for best practices in data visualization design.
In this blog post, Expose Your Museum’s Kathleen Livingston shares how staff at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science created bite sized video reports to share key findings with internal staff and stakeholders.