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What Types of Program Evaluations are there?

Program Evaluation

Program evaluations can assess the performance of a program at all stages of a program’s development. The type of program evaluation conducted aligns with the program’s maturity (e.g., developmental, implementation, or completion) and is driven by the purpose for conducting the evaluation and the questions that it seeks to answer. The purpose of the program evaluation determines which type of evaluation is needed.

Design Evaluation

A design evaluation is conducted early in the planning stages or implementation of a program. It helps to define the scope of a program or project and to identify appropriate goals and objectives. Design evaluations can also be used to pre-test ideas and strategies.

Process Evaluation

A process evaluation assesses whether a program or process is implemented as designed or operating as intended and identifies opportunities for improvement. Process evaluations often begin with an analysis of how a program currently operates. Process evaluations may also assess whether program activities and outputs conform to statutory and regulatory requirements, EPA policies, program design or customer expectations.

Outcome Evaluations

Outcome evaluations examine the results of a program (intended or unintended) to determine the reasons why there are differences between the outcomes and the program’s stated goals and objectives (e.g., why the number and quality of permits issued exceeded or fell short of the established goal?). Outcome evaluations sometimes examine program processes and activities to better understand how outcomes are achieved and how quality and productivity could be improved.

Impact Evaluation

An impact evaluation is a subset of an outcome evaluation. It assesses the causal links between program activities and outcomes. This is achieved by comparing the observed outcomes with an estimate of what would have happened if the program had not existed (e.g., would the water be swimmable if the program had not been instituted).

Cost-Effectiveness Evaluation

Cost-effectiveness evaluations identify program benefits, outputs or outcomes and compare them with the internal and external costs of the program.