Framing your evaluation question

The first step to conducting a DIY evaluation is to identify the question which you are going to investigate as clearly as possible. Without a well-framed evaluation question, good research is impossible. A number of types of question are possible. For example:

A simple question might be whether a particular intervention boosts attainment or not (for example, does having a mentor boost performance in GCSE English?). Alternatively, you could investigate whether a particular form of an intervention works better than another (is weekly mentoring more effective than monthly mentoring?).

Once you have found an approach which you believe may work in your school, a good way to frame the question you wish to answer is to fill out the blanks in the following sentence 10 times:

I would really like to know if _____________________ (intervention) would have an impact on _________________ (outcome) in our school.

  • CHOICE: choice to be evaluated;
  • OUTCOME: outcome that will be measured;
  • CONTEXT: people to be measured and context.

Example 1. Evaluation questions

The following are examples of well-framed evaluation questions;

What impact does the school’s new Year 7 reading support group have on the students’ reading abilities?

What impact do three different types of effective feedback have on the writing performance Year 6 pupils in Newgate School?

Example 2. Framing your evaluation question at Parkview

The English department at Parkview School decided it was important to have a consistent marking policy, but was not sure which method of marking would have the biggest effect on reading.

Discussions led to the teachers narrowing down the choice to grading with ticks and crosses and a comment or providing comment-only marking. Opiinion was divided about which is better so they formed the following research question:

What impact does using comment-only or graded marking have on Parkview Schools pupils' reading comprehension over one year?

They agreed that one class in each year group would be randomly allocated to each approach and they would assess the results using a standardised reading test at the end of the year. By evaluating the different ways of assessing, the teachers were able to develop the best possible assessments policy for their pupils.

[1] This idea is taken from Michael Quinn Patton’s ‘Utilization-focused Evaluation’ (1997), Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE.It is critical that a good evaluation question encompasses the following three elements:

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Your DIY Trial

Using the information provided, enter your evaluation question into the provided field. Tips on framing evaluation questions can be found here.

Use the notes section to record your thoughts or questions as you go. As a DIY trial may take place over the course of a term or a year, these notes will be important to remind you of your ideas and any decisions you made about your trial.

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