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NEO Shop Talk

The blog of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine Evaluation Office

Archive for August, 2016

From Logic Model to Proposal Evaluation – Part 1: Goals and Objectives

Friday, August 26th, 2016

Vocabulary. Jargon. Semantics.  Sometimes I think it’s the death of us all.  Seriously, it’s really hard to have a conversation about anything when you use the same words in the same context to mean completely different things.

Take Goals and Objectives.  I can’t tell you how many different ways this has been taught to me.  But in general all the explanations agree that a goal is a big concept, and an objective is more specific.

Things get complicated when we use words like Activities, Outcomes, and Measurable Objectives when teaching you about logic models as a way of planning a project.  Which of those words correlate with Goals and Objectives when writing a proposal for the project you just planned?

Bela Lugosi as Dracula

I’m going to walk through an example of how we can connect the dots between the logic model that we use to plan projects, and the terminology used in proposal writing.  There isn’t necessarily going to be a one to one relationship, and it might depend on the number of goals you have.

As has been stated in previous posts, we’ve never actually done any work with the fictional community of Sunnydale, a place where there was, in the past, a large number of vampires and other assorted demons.  But in order to work through this problem, let’s go back to this hypothetical post where we used the Kirkpatrick Model to determine outcomes that we would like to see with any remaining vampires who want to live healthy long lives, and get along with their human neighbors.  For this post, I’m going to pretend I’m writing a proposal to do a training project for them based on those outcomes, and then show how they lead to an evaluation plan.

Goals

The goal can be your long-term outcome or it can be somewhat separate from the outcomes. But either way, your goal needs to be logically connected to the work you’re planning to do.  For example, if you’re going to train vampires to use MedlinePlus, goals like “making the world a better place,” or “achieving world peace,” are not as connected to your project as something like “improving health and well being of vampires” or “improving the health-literacy of vampires so they can make good decisions about their health.”

Here is a logic model showing how this could be laid out, using the outcomes established in the earlier post:

Dusk to Dawn Logic Model

Keep in mind that the purpose of a proposal is to persuade someone to fund your project.  So for the sake of my proposal, I’m going to combine the long-term outcomes into one goal statement.

The goal of this project is to improve the health and well being of vampires in the Sunnydale community.

Objectives

The objectives can be taken from the logic model Activities column. But keep something in mind.  Logic models are small – one page at most.  So you can’t use a lot of words to describe activities.  Objectives on the other hand are activities with some detail filled in. So in the logic model the activity might be “Evening hands-on training on MedlinePlus and PubMed,” while the objective I put in my proposal might be “Objective 1: We will teach 4 hands-on evening classes on the use of MedlinePlus and PubMed to improve Sunnydale vampires’ ability to find consumer health information and up to date research.”

Objectives in Context

Here’s a sample of my Executive Summary of the project, showing goals, objectives, and outcomes in a narrative format:

Executive Summary: The goal of our From Dusk to Dawn project is to improve the health and well being of vampires in the Sunnydale community. In order to reach this goal, we will 1) teach 4 hands-on evening classes on the use of MedlinePlus and PubMed to improve Sunnydale vampires’ ability to find consumer health information and up to date research about health conditions; and 2) open a 12-hour “Dusk-to-Dawn” health reference hotline to help the vampires with their reference questions.  With these activities, we hope to see a) increased ability of the Internet-using Sunnydale vampires to research needed health information; b) that those vampires will use their increased skills to research health information for their brood; and c) these vampires will use this information to make good health decisions leading to improved health, and as a result form better relationships with the human community of Sunnydale.

Please note that in this executive summary, I do not use the word “objectives” to identify the phrases numbered 1 and 2, and I also do not use the word “outcomes” to identify the phrases lettered a, b, and c (because I like the way it reads better without them). However, in detailed narrative of my proposal I would use those terms to go with those exact phrases.

So then, what are Measurable Objectives?

The key to the evaluation plan is creating another kind of objective: what we call a measurable outcome objective. When you create your evaluation plan, along with showing how you plan to measure that you did what you said you would do (process assessment), you will also want to plan how to collect data showing the degree to which you have reached your outcomes (outcome assessment).  These statements are what we call measurable outcome objectives.

Using the “Book 2 Worksheet: Outcome Objectives” found on our Evaluation Resources web page, you start with your outcomes, add an indicator, target and time frame to get measurable objectives  and write it in a single sentence.  Here’s an example of what that would look like using the first outcome listed in the Executive Summary:

Dusk to Dawn Measurable Objective

We’ve gotten through some terminology and some steps for going from your logic model to measuring your outcomes.

Stay tuned for next week when we turn all of this into an Evaluation Plan!

Dare I say it? Same bat time, same bat channel…

 

 

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Shop Talk SWOT Hack for Proposal Writers

Friday, August 19th, 2016

SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis, strategic planning method presented as diagram on blackboard with white chalk and sticky notes

Every self-respecting workshop has its share of hacks. Today’s post is about the NEO Shop Talk’s SWOT hack.

Most of our readers have heard of SWOT analysis, because of its widespread use in strategic planning. NEO developed its own special version of SWOT analysis to help our readers and training participants with preparation of funding proposals.  Our version of SWOT analysis is one of a number of methods on the NEO’s new resource page for proposal planning featured in last week’s post.

“SWOT” stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.  Businesses use SWOT analysis to examine their organizations’ internal strengths and weaknesses, and to identify external opportunities and threats that may impact future success. Strategic plans are then designed to exploit the positive factors and manage the negative factors identified in the analysis.

SWOT analysis can be a great proposal-planning tool. After all, funding proposal are essentially strategic plans. The analysis will prepare you to write a plan that describes the following:

  • Your organization’s unique ability to meet the needs of your primary project beneficiaries (Strengths)
  • The weaknesses in your organization that you hope to address through the funding requested in your proposal. (Weaknesses)
  • Resources external to your organization that you have discovered and can leverage for project success, such as experts, partners, or technology.(Opportunities)
  • Potential challenges you have identified and your contingency plan for addressing them, should they arise. (Threats)

Funding proposal do differ in one key way from organizational strategic plans: they are persuasive in nature. Your proposal must argue convincingly that an initiative is needed. It must also demonstrate your organization’s readiness to address that need. To make your arguments credible, you will need data, and you get that data from a community assessment. (I use the word “community” for any group that you want to serve through your project.) The NEO has tweaked the SWOT analysis process so that it can serve as the first step in the community assessment process.

Every SWOT analysis uses a chart.  We altered the traditional SWOT chart a bit, adding a third column.  In that column, you can record questions that arise during your SWOT discussion to be explored in your community assessment. Our chart looks like this:

NEO's version of the SWOT charts with a third column in gray for the internal and external unknowns

Here are the basic steps we suggest for facilitating a SWOT discussion:

  1. Convene a SWOT team. Ideally, representatives’ expertise and experience will lead to a thorough understanding of the internal and external factors that can impact your project. You want team members who know your organization well and those who know the beneficiary community well.  It’s great if you can find people who know both, such as key informants who belong to the beneficiary group and also use the services of your library or organization.
  2. Ask the group to brainstorm ideas for each of the six squares in the chart above. To record group input, facilitators favor poster-size SWOT charts pinned to the wall and stacks of sticky pads that allow team members to add their ideas to each square.
  3. Once you have exhausted the discussion about the six squares, you now want to see if you have evidence to support the facts and ideas. Examine each idea on the chart, asking the following questions: (a) What source of information exists to support our claims about the identified strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats? If you have no real evidence for an idea, it may need to be moved to an “unknown” square (b) How important is it that we include this claim in our proposal (c) If we do need to include it, is our data credible enough to support our claim? It it’s weak, how can we get more persuasive data or additional corroborating information?
  4. Now, work with your “unknowns.” How can you educate yourself about those gray areas? What data sources and methods can you use?
  5. At this point, you now know where to focus your community assessment efforts. Your last step is to make a community assessment plan. Assign tasks to team members and determine a data collection timeline.

Once you have collected your data, your core project team can revisit the SWOT chart. Your community assessment findings should fit neatly into the four SWOT squares and, hopefully, you will have far fewer “unknowns.” Some of your community assessment findings will help you build your rationale for your project. Other information will help you refine your project strategies, which you will work out using another great planning tool from our proposal-planning page: the logic model.  For a group project-planning process, check out the NEO post on tearless logic models.

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Evaluation Planning for Proposals: a New NEO Resource

Friday, August 12th, 2016

Angry crazy Business woman with a laptop

Have you ever found yourself in this situation?  You’re well along in your proposal writing when you get to the section that says “how will you evaluate your project?”  Do you think:

  1. “Oh #%$*! It’s that section again.”
  2. “Why do they make us do this?”
  3. “Yay! Here’s where I get to describe how I will collect evidence that my project is really working!”

We at the NEO suggest thinking about evaluation from the get-go, so you’ll be prepared when you get to that section.  And we have some great booklets that show how to do that.  But sometimes people aren’t happy when we say “here are some booklets to read to get started,” even though they are awesome booklets.

So the NEO has made a new web page to make it easier to incorporate evaluation into the project planning process and end up with an evaluation plan that develops naturally.

1. Do a Community Assessment; 2. Make a Logic Model; 3. Develop Measurable Objectives; 4. Create an Evaluation Plan

We group the process into 4 steps: 1) Do a Community Assessment; 2) Make a Logic Model; 3) Develop Measurable Objectives for Your Outcomes; and 4) Create an Evaluation Plan.   Rather than explain what everything is and how to use it (for that you can read the booklets), this page links to the worksheets and samples (and some how-to sections) from the booklets so that you can jump right into planning.  And you can skip the things you don’t need or that you’ve already done.

In addition, we have included links to posts in this blog that show examples of the areas covered so people can put them in context.

We hope this helps with your entire project planning and proposal writing experience, as well as provides support for that pesky evaluation section of the proposal.

Please let Cindy (olneyc@uw.edu) or me (kjvargas@uw.edu) know how it works for you, and feel free to make suggestions.  Cheers!

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The Kirkpatrick Model (Part 2) — With Humans

Friday, August 5th, 2016

Disclaimer: Karen’s blog post last week on the Kirkpatrick Model used an example that was hypothetical.  We want to be clear that the NEO has never evaluated any programs directed toward improving health outcomes for vampires.

However, we can claim success in applying the Kirkpatrick Model for National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM) training programs.

The NN/LM’s mission is to promote the biomedical and consumer health resources of the National Library of Medicine.  One strategy that is popular with NN/LM’s Regional Medical Libraries, which lead and manage the network, is the “train-the-trainer” program. These programs teach librarians and others about NLM resources so that they, in turn, will teach their peers, patients, or clients. When the NEO provides evaluation consulting for train-the-trainer programs, we rely heavily on the Kirkpatrick Model.

Kirkpatrick Outcomes Levels and Logic Models

For example, the NN/LM’s initiative to reach out to community college librarians incorporated “train-the-trainer” as one of several strategies to promote use of NLM resources in community college health professions programs. While the initiative was multi-pronged, train-the-trainer programs for community college librarians was a major strategy of the project. The Kirkpatrick Model helped our task force define outcomes and develop measures for this activity.

Our logic model led us to the following program theory:

If we train community college librarians to use National Library of Medicine Resources

  • They will respond favorably to our message (Reaction)
  • And discover new, useful health information resources that (Learning)
  • They will use when working with faculty and students (Behavior)
  • Which will lead to increased use of NLM resources among community college faculty and staff (Results)

Slide1

Measuring Outcomes

We developed two simple measurement tools to assess the four outcome levels.  To measure Reaction, RML instructors administered a standard one-page session evaluation form that has been used for years by instructors who provide NN/LM training sessions. The form collects participants’ feedback, including the grade (A through F) they would assign to the class. This form was our measure of participant reaction.

The other three levels were assessed using a follow-up questionnaire sent to the training participants several months after their training. On this questionnaire, we asked them a series of yes/no questions:

Learning: At this training session, did you learn about health information resources that were NEW to you?

Behavior: Regarding the NEW resources you learned at the training, have you done any of the following?

  • Shown these resources to students?
  • Used the resources when preparing lesson plans?
  • Shown the resources to community college faculty or staff?
  • Used the resources to answer reference questions?

Results: Do you know if the resources are being used by

  • Students?
  • Faculty, administration, or staff at your organization?
  • The librarians at your institution?

We knew our Results questions were weak. They obviously were very subjective. Most of the respondents said they didn’t know about use beyond their library staff members. Unfortunately, we did not have resources for a more objective measure of our anticipated results (e.g., surveying faculty and students at participating schools). Our dilemma was not unusual. Many practitioners of the Kirkpatrick Model agree that assessing Results-level outcomes can be costly and challenging.

However, in anticipation that this Results-level measure might not work, we had a back-up plan inspired by Robert Brinkerhoff’s Success Case Method (which we posted about here). In this approach, evaluators ask training participants to describe how their training benefited the organization.  We ended the questionnaire with the following open-ended question: Please describe how the training you received on National Library of Medicine resources has made a difference for you or your organization.

This question worked well, with 57% of respondents providing examples of how the training improved their customer services. They reported using the NLM resources to provide reference services and incorporating NLM resources into their information literacy classes for health professions students.  Some also were talking to faculty about the importance of teaching health professions students about RML resources that students could use after graduation.

In the end, the Kirkpatrick Model helped us get metrics and qualitative information that helped to assess the effectiveness of our train-the-trainer activities.  Most of the training participants who responded to our follow-up questionnaire learned new resources and were promoting them to student and faculty. Their stories showed that the NN/LM training improved the services they were delivering to their users.

The NEO has drawn on the Kirkpatrick Model to design evaluation methods for similar projects, including our own evaluation training programs.  It is a great tool for helping program planners to define concrete objectives and create measures that are closely linked to desired outcomes.

 

Last updated on Monday, June 27, 2016

Funded by the National Library of Medicine under Contract No. UG4LM012343 with the University of Washington.