CORE has worked with educators to build their internal evaluation capacity and conduct quality evaluations. We contend that the primary contemporary challenge to the field of outreach and education evaluation is a systems one. Education takes place in a great variety of settings associated with both formal and informal educational contexts. It is funded through many avenues, many of which rely upon taxpayer dollars and require some proof of value for the dollar.
A central evaluation problem is how best to make a (causal) connection between the many and varied local educational activities and more macro longer-term global outcomes. This is a classic systems thinking problem, a part-whole or "local/global" challenge that every education project faces – how do we connect the many varied local experiences with the broader global outcomes of interest? Programs are typically most concerned with the experiences of their program participants and how service delivery can be improved (local level concerns). The research community more typically works on more global questions related to longer-term impact and the development of an educated workforce for the future (global level concerns). Connecting these local and global concerns requires more effective integration of the practice and research communities that focus on them.
Our latest Capacity Building studies (Phase I and Phase II) begin to address these needs for increasing evaluation capacity among program staff, to integrate that evaluation with program planning and development, and to assist practitioners in linking their short-term outcomes with the research evidence-base that allows them to make logical and empirical connections to broader long-term goals.
Phase I study
Phase II study
Systems Evaluation Theory