Evaluation Reports and Communication Forums
As you progress toward reporting and communicating findings of your school counseling evaluation and hold meetings or forums to present and discuss the results, keep in mind that each report and/or meeting has attached to it a type of evaluation use that can be used to promote and improve the school counseling program. Use these reporting and communication ideas strategically to advantage your school counseling program. In addition, remember that anytime evaluation information is communicated, stakeholders will test the communication for transparency and accountability. Stakeholders who were involved in developing evaluation questions or other aspects of the evaluation will want to know, for example, whether or not their information needs are being addressed. Other stakeholders may want to know whether or not the communication is balanced, objective, and comprehensive, and that inferences and recommendations are appropriately drawn from the data. While all of these issues would be difficult to address in, say, a 30-minute or one-hour meeting, know that how you communicate about the evaluation will in part determine, for those hearing or reading the communication, whether or not the information has veracity and, therefore, whether or not they can trust the evaluation process and findings.
Any communication about evaluation of the school counseling program will be assessed for transparency and accountability by program stakeholders.
Reporting evaluation findings is an essential aspect of motivating evaluation use. There are traditional approaches to reporting findings and innovative approaches that use technology, such as social media. All have strengths and limitations. The central aspect of using a type of report or means of reporting is to use it strategically to increase understanding among those who choose to read the report or view the reporting mechanism and prepare for use of the results. Recall that the ASCA National Model (ASCA, 2012) makes a fairly straightforward recommendation of periodically reporting evaluation results. We expand on this important recommendation and do so with an eye toward evaluation use.
The most conventional form of reporting is through the use of evaluation reports. Think of an evaluation as having a beginning, middle, and end, like any task. A report while the evaluation is ongoing (interim report) could be used to communicate how things are going, challenges the evaluation could be experiencing, results gathered thus far, and a host of other things important for understanding the evaluation. Generally, these reports are brief, 2-10 pages, and could include a review of next steps in the evaluation. The report is used to inform but could also be used to stimulate comments from stakeholders, including suggestions for revisions to the evaluation. We recommend capturing these suggestions and responding to each one of them in a final report. Some suggestions will make sense and seem reasonable. Others may not be feasible, given the time and resources available for the school counseling program evaluation. Be clear about the differences in recommendations and articulate this in the report and through other means of communication. Keep in mind that being responsive to stakeholder concerns is essential for the evaluation to be viewed as credible, a precursor to evaluation use.
The final report is yet another conventional means of reporting results. The final report typically contains all information about the evaluation, from conceptualization to implementation, data analysis, and findings and recommendations. Given the length of this report and the technical aspects contained in it, the report is likely not read by many stakeholders. Nevertheless, we strongly recommend a final report for all evaluations. It is a means of transparency and accountability for the evaluation process and findings. It can be referred to should anyone have specific questions about the evaluation.
The final report often contains an executive summary. The executive summary is usually 2-10 pages and contains a distillation of the final report. The executive summary can be used as another means of reporting to stakeholders and, given its shorter length, may be a document more widely read.
There is no agreed-upon structure for any type of evaluation report. We recommend using the school counseling evaluation framework as a starting point in developing a structure for any of the reports. Here is a sample report structure for a final report:
- • Executive Summary
- • Background
- • Identification and Involvement of Stakeholders
- • Logic Model
- • Evaluation Questions
- • Evaluation Methods and Design
- • Data Analysis
- • Findings and Recommendations
- • Appendices
Of course, this is a guideline. Depending on your evaluation and context, you might choose to revise this structure.
Think of an evaluation as having a beginning, a middle, and an end.
PowerPoint presentations are yet another common means to present evaluation findings or other aspects of the evaluation. A wonderful aspect of PowerPoint is the capability of providing information with multiple features to the text on the slide, including graphics. When done well, this can increase long-term retention of the information. Unfortunately, the technological capability in PowerPoint allows the development of slides that are cluttered with detail and graphics that can be confusing. When the presenter creates and uses PowerPoints that are busy and cluttered, the audience is left to wonder whether they should pay attention to the individual speaking or read the slides and ignore the speaker. All of this undermines understanding and long-term retention.
The American Evaluation Association has maintained a multi-year initiative to improve presentations. These ideas and recommendations can be applied to any type of evaluation-oriented presentation. Referred to as the Potent Presentations Initiative (p2i), it is a set of web-pages attached to the American Evaluation Association website that is full of wonderful suggestions to improve your presentations. We recommend referring to this website whenever you are preparing a presentation, particularly a PowerPoint presentation. The link is https://www.eval.org/p2i. Here are a few recommendations for creating slides:
- • 24-point font or higher
- • 1 or 2 font types
- • 5-6 lines of text per page
- • Strategic use of graphics
In short, use the technology to increase understanding; keep it simple and avoid clutter.
In recent years, various aspects of evaluation, particularly results, have been communicated through a variety of technologies. Many of these technologies are free over the internet. These include dashboards, interactive web-pages, blogs, YouTube videos, and data visualization tools, to name just a few. A one-page handout provided to participants at a meeting or made available to the general public can also be an effective way to communicate results. You can find more tools along with detail for each by accessing the website https://www. betterevaluation.org/en/blog/communicating-fmdings. All of these tools could be used to communicate aspects of your evaluation. Keep in mind that the tool is not an end in itself. The tool should be strategically used to communicate an aspect of your school counseling evaluation to stakeholders, in a way that increases understanding, transparency, and evaluation use.