Assessment and Evaluation
Assessment and evaluation is an essential component of competitive proposals — and done right it can be a terrific asset.
First of all, assessment needs not to be a bad word. A grantwriter at another liberal arts college observed at a conference session that “assessment is how we know our life’s work makes a difference.” Assessment is a way to know what is working (and what’s not), how many of your expected outcomes you are achieving, and what areas might need greater attention or a different approach.
If done thoughtfully, assessment can be something that helps you, rather than busywork that you do because the funder makes you!
What kinds of assessment should I consider?
Wide variety of types and means of assessment. Most basic type should be included in every single proposal: documentation that the proposed work was accomplished (or not, and why).
Not the area for a “kitchen sink” approach. Making assessment an asset rather than a burden means being thoughtful about what types and means of assessment are appropriate and useful.
Each part of your proposal should have clearly identified objectives – for your research outcomes (research questions or testable hypotheses), for student learning outcomes, for research and teaching that will use the new instrumentation, etc. Assessment plan should address the objectives identified in the project description and explain how you will know if you achieved the objectives or not.
Don’t give in to the temptation to measure the things that are easy to measure, for the sake of collecting data to show that you’ve been assessing. That’s busywork. Keeping project objectives in mind while developing assessment plan will help make sure that you will gather INFORMATION, not just data. Collect the RIGHT data.
Keep in mind that assessment plan should be appropriate to the scope of the proposal and realistic given the available resources. Be honest about explaining why the evaluation method chosen is the best and most appropriate.
Give some thought to who should conduct assessment. For many types of assessment, PI is fine. But for some projects (like CCLI) there is a strong sense that evaluator should be someone not involved in the project, in order to get a more objective assessment. Especially when assessing student learning outcomes, think about getting help from an expert in assessment – Bill Skinner, or use existing instrument (e.g. SURE).
NSF actually titles these two guides the NSF “User-Friendly” Handbook for Project Eval and Mixed-Method. Despite one’s initial skepticism, they do a pretty good job of outlining the different types of evaluation and helping PIs determine which methods of assessment may be most appropriate for a given project.
All of these are available free online.
Glossary of assessment terms:
What We Do
Internal Grants and Travel
Tips on Writing Grant Proposals