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US NSF National Science Foundation: User-Friendly Handbook for Mixed Method Evaluations
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Although there are many excellent textbooks, manuals, and guides dealing with evaluation, few are geared to the needs of the EHR grantee who may be an experienced researcher but a novice evaluator. One of the ways that EHR seeks to fill this gap is by the publication of what have been called "user-friendly" handbooks for project evaluation.
The first publication, User-Friendly Handbook for Project Evaluation: Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology Education, issued in 1993, describes the types of evaluations principal investigators/project directors (PIs/PDs) may be called upon to perform over the lifetime of a project. It also describes in some detail the evaluation process, which includes the development of evaluation questions and the collection and analysis of appropriate data to provide answers to these questions. Although this first handbook discussed both qualitative and quantitative methods, it covered techniques that produce numbers (quantitative data) in greater detail. This approach was chosen because decisionmakers usually demand quantitative (statistically documented) evidence of results. Indicators that are often selected to document outcomes include percentage of targeted populations participating in mathematics and science courses, test scores, and percentage of targeted populations selecting careers in the mathematics and science fields.
The current handbook, User-Friendly Guide to Mixed Method Evaluations, has been published in August 1997 and builds on the first but seeks to introduce a broader perspective. It was initiated because of the recognition that by focusing primarily on quantitative techniques, evaluators may miss important parts of a story. Experienced evaluators have found that most often the best results are achieved through the use of mixed method evaluations, which combine quantitative and qualitative techniques. Because the earlier handbook did not include an indepth discussion of the collection and analysis of qualitative data, this handbook was initiated to provide more information on qualitative techniques and discuss how they can be combined effectively with quantitative measures.
Like the earlier publication, this handbook is aimed at users who need practical rather than technically sophisticated advice about evaluation methodology. The main objective is to make PIs and PDs "evaluation smart" and to provide the knowledge needed for planning and managing useful evaluations.
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