Building Our Understanding: Key Concepts of Evaluation – What is it and how do you do it?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Healthy Communities Program
Imagine that you or your research team has just completed a communication intervention designed to reduce smoking among adolescents. Wouldn’t you want to know if the intervention worked? That is where evaluation comes in. In this case, we would be conducting a summative evaluation (after the intervention) to answer questions such as: (1) Did rates of smoking among adolescents decrease?; (2) Did the radio ads reach enough teens to have statistical power?; (3) Did the ads affect norms about smoking in that age group?; (4) Was the cigarette tax increase during the evaluation period the real reason that smoking decreased?; (5) Was the implementation of a nosmoking policy in the schools the reason that smoking decreased?; and (6) Was the referral to tobacco quitlines the reason that smoking decreased? If the research team conducted a formative evaluation (before and during the communication intervention), your team would be able to make any necessary changes such as edits to radio ads or when they are played before continuing forward. If you’re still feeling confused, don’t worry; the purpose of this introductory section is to provide you with some useful background information on evaluation planning.