evaluation design

Program Evaluation Tiers

The Harvard Family Research Project offers several useful evaluation resources. The guide Afterschool Evaluation 101: How to Evaluate an Expanded Learning Program is one of their valuable resources useful to provide non-evaluators an overview of program evaluation. The guide is organized around nine steps:

  1. Determine the evaluation’s purpose
  2. Developing a logic model
  3. Assessing your program’s capacity for evaluation
  4. Choosing the focus of your evaluation
  5. Selecting the evaluation design
  6. Collecting data
  7. Analyzing data
  8. Presenting evaluation results
  9. Using evaluation data

Evaluations vary as much as programs do (i.e., different activities, duration, outcomes, et cetera) underscoring the importance of wisely choosing the focus of an evaluation. Step 4 in the guide “Choosing the focus of your evaluation” describes a five tier approach that is summarized below (pages 13-16). Determining an appropriate evaluation focus is largely dependent on a program’s maturity and developmental stage.

  • Tier 1- Conduct a needs assessment to address how the program can best meet needs
  • Tier 2- Document program services to understand how program services are being implemented
  • Tier 3- Clarify the program to see if the program is being implemented as intended
  • Tier 4- Make program modifications to improve the program
  • Tier 5- Assess program impact to demonstrate program effectiveness

As you can see, evaluation can and should coincide with a program throughout its lifespan. These tiers are useful to help design an evaluation plan and to determine appropriate methods of data collection and analysis.