Checklists and evaluation
Often in evaluation, we are asked to evaluate projects and programmes from several different perspectives: the end user, the implementer or that of an external specialist or “expert”. I always favour the idea that evaluation is representing the *target audiences* point of view – as is often the case in evaluating training or communications programmes – we are trying to explain the effects of a given programme or project on target audiences. However, often a complementary point of view from an “expert” can be useful. A simple example – imagine if you making an assessment of a company website – a useful comparison would be comparing the feedback from site visitors with that of an “expert” who examines the the website and gives his/her opinion.
However, often opinions of “experts” are mixed in with feedback from audiences and comes across as unstructured opinions and impressions. A way of avoiding this is for “experts” to use checklists – a structured way to assess the overall merit, worth or importance of something.
Now many would consider checklists as being a simple tool not worthy of discussion. But actually a checklist is often a representation of a huge body of knowledge or experience: e.g. how do you determine and describe the key criteria for a successful website?
Most checklists used in evaluation are criteria of merit checklists – where a series of criteria are established and given a standard scale (e.g. very poor to excellent) and are weighed equally or not (e.g. one criteria is equal or more crucial than the next one). Here are several examples where checklists could be useful in evaluation:
- Evaluating an event: you determine “success criteria” for the event and have several experts use a checklist and then compare results.
- Project implementation: a team of evaluators are interviewing staff/partners on how a project is being implemented. The evaluators use a checklist to assess the progress themselves.
- Evaluating services/products: commonly used, where a checklist is used by a selection panel to determine the most appropriate product/services for their needs.
This post by Rick Davies actually got me thinking about this subject and discusses the use of checklists in assessing the functioning of health centres.