What is an Evaluation?

There are numerous definitions for evaluation, often dependent on the evaluator or the needs of the program being evaluated. The definition I prefer is “evaluation is a systematic process by which the activities of a project can be assessed in order to determine the effectiveness of the elements of the project. It is to be used by the project management to reframe or revise aspects of the program, so they work better for the overall good of the project.” My definition emphasizes the systematic gathering and assessment of information. The generic goal of evaluation is to provide useful feedback to stakeholders about a project and its activities. Stakeholders can include the sponsor of the project – NSF, NIH, DOE, for example, the participants, staff, and often the public. Evaluation is most useful when it aids decision-making.