The first step to conducting an evaluation is to identify what you are going to evaluate. Without knowing what you want to find out, good evaluation is impossible.
You should have identified what you are hoping to achieve from the residential during its planning. If you have used the logic model or theory of change approach to planning suggested earlier, and outlined in the Planning Tools resource on the Learning Away website, you will have identified:
- The learning needs i.e. the particular learning problems or opportunities that could be addressed by providing a residential.
- The longer-term aims or impacts you would hope to achieve, once back at school, as a result of providing the residential.
- The medium-term outcomes likely to achieve your long-term aims i.e. the changes/benefits/learning you would hope to see as a result of your residential.
- The outputs i.e. the quantifiable changes that you hope to see as a direct result of your residential.
Evaluation will tell you if the residential has achieved what you hoped. Your evaluation should therefore be planned to help you find out whether you achieved the aims, impacts, outcomes and outputs based on your learning needs.
In order to identify what you want to find out, and therefore plan your evaluation approach, it is useful to ask yourself a simple question. A good way to frame the question you wish to answer is to fill out the blanks in the following sentence:
I would really like to know if the residential had an impact on _________________ (aims) and _________________ (outcomes) for my class/year group/school.
For example, the external evaluation of Learning Away focused on trying to find out whether residentials had an impact on the following:
- Boosting progress and attainment
- Improving knowledge, understanding and skills
- Improving students’ engagement with their learning
- Fostering deeper student-teacher and student-student relationships
- Improving resilience, self-confidence and wellbeing
- Boosting cohesion and sense of belonging
- Offering opportunities for student leadership and co-design of learning
- Improving students’ transition experiences
- Enabling teachers to widen and develop their pedagogical skills.