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Logic Models: Handy Hints

The Coffee Break Demonstration webinar  for Thursday, January 5 from the American Evaluation Association was “5 Hints for Making Logic Models Worth the Time and Effort.”  CDC Chief Evaluation Officer Tom Chapel provided this list:

1.  See the model as a means, not an end itself

His point here was that you may not NEED a logic model for successful program planning, but you will ALWAYS need a program description that describes need, target groups, intended outcomes, activities, and causal relationships.  He advised us to identify “accountable” short-term outcomes where the link between the project and subsequent changes can be made clear, and differentiate between those and the longer-term outcomes to which the program contributes.

2.  Process use may be the highest and best use

Logic models are useful for ongoing evaluation and adjustment of activities for continuous quality improvement.

3.  Let form follow function

You can make a logic model as detailed and complex as you need it to be, and you can use whatever format works best for you.  He pointed out that the real “action” is in the middle of the model.  The “middle” of the logic model, its “heart,” is the description of what the program does, and who or what will change as a result of the program.  He advised us to create simple logic models that focus on these key essentials to aid communication about a program.  This simple logic model can be a frame of reference for more complexity—for details about the program and how it will be evaluated.

4.  Use additional vocabulary sparingly, but correctly

Mediators such as activities and outputs help us understand the underlying “logic” of our program.  Moderators are contextual factors that will facilitate or hinder outcome achievement.

5.  Think “zebras,” not “horses”

This is a variation of the saying, “when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.”   My interpretation of this hint is that it’s a reminder that in evaluation we are looking not only for expected outcomes but also unexpected ones.   According to Wikipedia, “zebra” is medical slang for a surprising diagnosis.

You can find the slides for Tom Chapel’s presentation in the American Evaluation Association’s Evaluation eLibrary.

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