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You should not implement initiatives then ‘set and forget’. Initiatives are introduced for a reason: to improve student outcomes. Monitoring and evaluation allow you to know:
- Has the initiative been successful (has it achieved, or is on track to achieve, the intended objective)?
- What should we do with the initiative (continue it, shut it down, scale it up, change who participates)?
Thinking about how you will measure success is best done when you design your initiative. Then:
- Measures of success are focused clearly on what you want the initiative to achieve.
- You can set up ways to capture the information you need to measure success.
- There is a greater chance of monitoring and evaluating happening.
By the end of this step, you will have:
- Identified when you will measure success.
- Identified how you will measure success.
When will I measure success?
One approach is to look back at the measures of success you identified in Decide what you want to achieve? and consider when you could expect to observe whether they had been achieved.
If outcomes are long-term (e.g. students choosing more careers in STEM) this may not be reasonable. Instead, you may need to identify whether there are some earlier indicative or proxy measures for long-term outcomes (e.g. students choosing STEM subjects, or students enjoying STEM subjects more), and think about when these could be observed.
But you don’t have to wait for the program to finish to evaluate its success. In fact, if an initiative runs for a long time, is a new or innovative idea, or a major investment, you might want to know whether it has been successful early on. That way you can make adjustments to make the initiative more effective while it is still running. You may also want to do an evaluation before a major decision point, such as expanding the initiative to more students, or making an appeal for funding.
How will I measure success?
An evaluation is the best way to measure whether your initiative has been successful.
To learn how to prepare and complete an evaluation, read this Toolkit’s guidance on evaluating initiatives to understand:
- Why evaluation is important
- How much and what kind of information you need to collect about your measures
- How to manage the common difficulties involved with evaluating STEM education initiatives (long lag times for measuring outcomes, establishing causation)