College Consortium: Evaluating Prevention Activities on Campus

May 02nd, 2018

By Rachel Yehoda, Program Coordinator (Prevention & Education)

Implementing prevention programs on campus is a crucial part of protecting students from experiencing sexual assault. One important aspect of prevention work is evaluating our outcomes—how do we know for sure if our prevention efforts are effective? The high rate of students who experience sexual assault while in college means that it is essential for us to ensure that our prevention efforts are comprehensive and achieve their intended outcomes. In this quarter’s College Consortium article, we unpack the concept of program evaluation and the importance of evaluating prevention activities on campus, as well as highlight a few technical assistance tools to help you get started evaluating your prevention efforts.

Program evaluation, simply put, is the process that we use to measure the effectiveness of our prevention programs. By engaging in evaluation, we are able to make important decisions about the direction of our prevention programs on campus. For example, if we see that a bystander intervention program is producing its intended outcomes of increased knowledge on sexual assault prevention and students are acquiring more bystander skills, we would want to invest more resources and time into a program that is thriving. Program evaluation also prevents us from making assumptions about our communities’ readiness and receptiveness for sexual violence prevention programs. If a community of students does not believe that sexual violence is a major issue, we will have to reframe our approach to prevention with that audience. Another critical reason to engage in program evaluation is that it provides us with a way to objectively show important stakeholders and campus partners the progress we are making with our programs.

When it comes to planning your evaluation, you will want to consider the desired outcomes of your program, how to obtain information about these outcomes, and how information will be shared.

  • The outcomes that you decide to measure will depend on the overall goals of your program and the content covered. Common outcomes that can be examined in a program evaluation include knowledge, attitudes, skill development, and behavior changes. Remember, when it comes to evaluating your program, you should only ask questions that relate directly back to your programs goals, content, and outcomes. This should not be confused with the broader goal of ending sexual violence.  For instance, it would be inappropriate to ask about behavior change in a program that only covers the prevalence of and common myths about sexual assault among college students.
  • The next step in the process is to plan how you will conduct your evaluation, and the tools you will use to gather information. Pre- and post-tests—where program participants are given short tests at the beginning and end of a program—are a common evaluation design. This method can help you measure outcomes, such as knowledge, before and after the program and compare to see what change has occurred. There are several methods to choose from when it comes to collecting information on program outcomes, including surveys, focus groups, and interviews.
  • After completing your program evaluation, it is important to share the results with those who are invested in the program in some way. These individuals are often referred to as stakeholders. Stakeholders on campus can include program staff, campus administrators, faculty, students, and others. Sharing the results with key decision-makers on campus can help with buy-in, resource investment, and increased program sustainability.  

Evaluation can seem like a bureaucratic task, but with the right tools and resources, anyone can conduct a good program evaluation that actually improves our work. MCASA has developed a comprehensive guide, Sexual Assault Prevention Evaluation Guide for Colleges and Universities, for schools interested in evaluating their prevention work. This guide provides an in-depth overview of program evaluation, its importance, and strategies for getting started with evaluation on your campus. 

If you are seeking additional technical assistance when developing your program evaluation, please reach out to MCASA at [email protected] or give us a call at 301-328-7023.

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