A process (formative) evaluation documents and analyzes information about the extent to which the intervention was carried out as intended. For example, to resolve family caregiving conflicts, a family meeting intervention was used. Did family members attend the meeting? Did they participate? Were conflicts about caregiving discussed? How satisfied were members with the meeting? Similarly, to help arrive at consensus about the redevelopment plan, a community forum was conducted. How many people attended? How many spoke? How diverse was the group of participants? What feelings and suggestions were expressed at the meeting? These are process questions. They do NOT address the larger question of whether family caregiving conflicts were resolved or the community reached consensus on the redevelopment plan. Process evaluation, then, allows the social worker to make note of progress; it also sets the stage for an outcome evaluation, by determining whether the intervention occurred with fidelity to the intentions.
Outcome (Summative) Evaluation is concerned with results. Did the intervention enable the desired change? Looking again at the family meeting, has the family agreed on a plan of action for Ms. Stone's mother? Has Virginia’s level of stress decreased as a result of the meeting? For the community, do participants feel better informed and more empowered about the redevelopment issues? Have community members reached agreement about a plan going forward? The summative evaluation addresses the question of the extent to which the ultimate goals of the intervention were met.
Although evaluation is presented here as the last step in the social work change process, effective social workers continuously monitor progress toward the achievement of goals.
Clients may not reach their goals for a number of reasons:
Good practice is inextricably linked with practice evaluation. Evaluation allows you to see more clearly where the intervention process started and where it still needs to go, as well as to measure your effectiveness in producing positive change for the client system.
Review your intervention goals and the measures by which you will know goals are accomplished.
Develop a plan for measuring both process and outcome variables that you think would provide evidence about the accomplishment of your goals. Implement your evaluation plan.
After completing your evaluation, reflect on the results. What has been accomplished? What still needs to be done?
Reflect on your professional strengths as an evaluator. What tasks or skills may be more difficult for you?