Resources for Practitioners

Taking the first steps to plan an evaluation can be intimidating. How do you know what kind(s) of evaluation you should plan? How do you choose an evaluator? What information should you provide the evaluator to produce the information you need? How do you know what information you need? How do you judge whether an evaluation design is appropriate and adequate?

This page provides links to a wide range of resources to help you get started and dig deeper as the program – and the evaluation – progress and evolve. The publications and Web sites are written for people with various levels of expertise, so you will want to spend some time clicking through the lists to see which best fit your needs.  They are organized into three broad categories: basic how-to guides and toolkits; publications providing more detailed explanations of design, terms, methods, etc.; and documents with more technical detail and guides from specific organizations, such as the National Science Foundation and the Kellogg Foundation.

Basic Guides and Toolkits

Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education

Evaluation Toolkit

Step-by-step toolkit with explanations of evaluation types

U.S. Department of Education

Evaluation Toolkit for Magnet School Programs

Step-by-step toolkit for common approaches

National Forum on Early Childhood Program Evaluation

Early Childhood Program Evaluations: A Decision-Maker’s Guide

Checklist and advice for reading evaluations and forming your own, independent opinion

Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy

User-Friendly Guides to Research/Evaluation

A Little More Detail: Design, Methods, Terms, Etc.

U.S. Department of Education

Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund Evidence & Evaluation Webinar, April 25, 2012

Good descriptions of DOE’s standards for providing evidence of an intervention’s promise and conducting outcomes evaluations

Other Sources

Handbook of Practical Program Evaluation, 3rd Edition,

Chapter 1: Planning and Designing Useful Evaluations

Very readable explanations of different kinds of evaluations, advice on methodological issues, and graphics to make processes more accessible. Full text is available for sale.

North Central Regional Educational Laboratory

Critical Issue: Using Scientifically Based Research to Guide Educational Decisions

Uses layman’s terms and useful examples to explain the Department of Education’s expectations for scientifically based research

Urban Institute

Evaluation Strategies for Human Services Programs: A Guide for Policymakers and Providers

Lots of essential information, including good definitions, explanations, and examples, and helpful discussions of pros and cons

Cornell Professor William M.K. Trochim's Research Methods Knowledge Base

Evaluation Research

Pithy, accessible definitions and discussions

Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation

Program Evaluation Standards

List of standards for evaluations of education programs, with links to a book providing a much fuller treatment

Introduction to Program Evaluation for Public Health Programs: A Self-Study Guide

Guidance for traditional program evaluation; useful if experimental or quasi-experimental methods are not practical or feasible

University of Wisconsin/ What Works, Wisconsin: Research to Practice Series

Evidence-based programs: An overview

Explains the need for rigorous evidence supporting programs; provides some information on evaluating available evidence

American Heart Association "Circulation"

Qualitative and Mixed Methods Provide Unique Contributions to Outcomes Research

Discusses the value of using mixed methods and describes techniques to build rigor

Into the Weeds: More Technical Detail & Guides from Specific Organizations

United States Government Accountability Office

Designing Evaluations, 2012 Revision

W.K. Kellogg Foundation

US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation

The Program Manager’s Guide to Evaluation, Second Edition

University of Chicago/Center for Advancing Research and Communication

Evaluation Resources

(Scroll down to “Guidelines, Toolkits and Other Resources for Evaluation Research”)

National Research Council

Scientific Research in Education