Program evaluation provides an objective basis for decision making regarding program outcomes; it is the systematic application of social science methods to assess needs for a program along with the program's design, implementation, and outcomes. It results in (1) information regarding the program’s merit, worth, or significance and (2) an accounting of the objective strengths and weaknesses of this information.
Program evaluations are a critical component of determining program value. Social programs may carry them out internally, or an external organization may carry out the evaluations. Evaluations and their results may be highly politically charged or of interest only to direct stakeholders. There are excellent program evaluations that have had tremendous impacts on programs and their target populations. There are also poor or flawed program evaluations that provide weaker information than could have been obtained, provide incorrect information, or are misleading.
The program evaluation course is designed to:
- Provide the student with the theoretical, conceptual, methodological, and statistical tools of program evaluation.
- Teach the student how to conduct basic and complex program evaluations, as well as how to critique and monitor comprehensive program evaluations.
- Successful completion of this course will prepare students to be a contributing member of teams that design and carry out program evaluations or that commission program evaluations and make decisions based upon their results.