Evaluating your STEM intervention or activity

Evaluation is an extremely important element of all educational enhancement projects.   It is vital for obtaining evidence based data that indicates the impact your work is having and to enable you to disseminate ‘what works and why?’ in order to allow you to share your learning and experiences more widely.

Good evaluation practice includes:

  • Building in evaluation from the start of a project;
  • Establishing a baseline to ensure that impact can be measured over time;
  • Including evaluation as a standing item at steering group or project monitoring meetings;
  • Using consistent and robust data collection tools;
  • Collaborating with all stakeholders and participants in evaluation activities.

There can sometimes be confusion as to what is meant by evaluation and monitoring. In essence monitoring is about ensuring that an activity is on track – which mainly involves counting things. Evaluation is not just about measuring numbers – it is important to collect qualitative information and to understand why changes occur. Effective evaluation involves understanding whether you achieved what you set out to, how well you did it, what impact your activity has had (including unintended outcomes), and to reflect critically on the activities and processes used.

Every project is different and so it is not appropriate to prescribe too detailed an approach in this regard. However, all projects, large and small, should be asking themselves some common questions and ensuring that they collect evidence to back up all statements they make about the impact of their activities. The following questions are offered as a starting point for self-evaluating your project. You should revisit them throughout the duration of the project and review your impact at the end, focusing on ‘what worked and why’, and disseminating lessons learned, both positive and negative.

Evaluation questions:

  1. What will success for your project look like?
    (When considering this it is useful to reflect on your intended project outcomes)
  2. Where were you at the outset of this project?
    (Establishing a baseline is an important factor against which to evidence progress)
  3. What do you anticipate will happen that would not have happened if the project had not gone ahead? 
    (The evidence for impact will be a core element of your future case study or report)
  4. How will you know that you have been successful?
    (What evidence will you rely upon and hence need to collect to make a judgement?) 

An evaluation methodology should be built into a project at its outset, and failing that as early as possible, as it may be essential for you to capture data to establish a baseline position against which the impact of your intervention can be measured.  


You may find the following evaluation resources useful, and we welcome any further suggestions you may have.  Please contact us.

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Title Description Developed By
National HE STEM Evaluation Seminar 2012  A series of videos discussing a range of aspects of evaluation and data collection methodologies produced during a seminar in January 2012. National HE STEM Programme
Evaluating your Teaching Innovation This booklet offers practical advice and guidelines on evaluating the impact of your teaching practice. Although it focuses on development projects in support of the National HE STEM Programme, it will be relevant to teaching practices in any discipline. National HE STEM Programme
Evaluating your HE STEM Project or Activity This guide was developed following a National HE STEM Programme workshop in January 2012.  It is designed as a collection of resources to stimulate discussion and reflection amongst those seeking to evaluate educational enhancement activity or understand more about the evaluation process; it also seeks to provide frameworks, templates and resources for future use. National HE STEM Programme
Evaluation Framework This resource comprises a series of documents and guides which constitute an evaluation framework for planning and evaluating educational activities.  It is modified from an evaluation framework produced for the six Higher Education Academy Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Subject Centres in 2009. Higher Education Academy STEM Subject Centres
A Beginner’s Guide to Evaluating STEM Public Engagement The National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) developed through the National HE STEM Programme a series of training resources to help STEM academics evaluate the impact of their outreach and public engagement activities. Please note, to access these resources you need to join the NCCPE's free training site National HE STEM Programme & National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement
Ingenious Evaluation Toolkit This online toolkit contains resources for grant holders to evaluate their Ingenious (public engagement) projects and share good practice.  It offers a general, introductory guide to doing evaluation aimed at holders of an Ingenious grant from the Royal Academy of Engineering but includes generic advice that will be applicable to anyone. Royal Academy of Engineering
Evaluation: Practical Guidelines -A guide for evaluating public engagement activities Produced by Research Councils UK (RCUK), this comprehensive downloadable guide is aimed at researchers seeking to engage general audiences with their subject to evaluate public  engagement activities, regardless of prior experience of either public engagement or evaluation. It is aimed at researchers from any discipline. Research Councils UK