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FINE Newsletter, Volume VII, Issue 4
Issue Topic: Evaluation and Improvement Science in Action

Research and Resources From Harvard Family Research Project

Program evaluation and improvement science often shape how programs continuously improve and grow. The resources below help practitioners strengthen their work and develop more productive relationships with evaluators. Resources are grouped into the following categories:


Interview With Carol H. Weiss

In this interview, Carol Weiss, the late professor of education at Harvard University, shared her thoughts on the challenges facing the field of evaluation as well as the implications for how evaluators are trained. In addition, she discussed the connection between evaluation and policy making and addressed the need to improve the influence of evaluation on policy.

The Poverty Focus of Country Programs

The elimination of extreme poverty is one of the World Bank Group’s main priorities. To examine how successful they have been in supporting poverty reduction over the past decade, the World Bank Group conducted an evaluation, the findings of which are shared in this short and creative video.

Evaluation: What Is It and Why Do It?

Looking for a brief introduction to evaluation? Take a look at this article from My Environmental Education Evaluation Resource Assistant to learn more about the variety of evaluation approaches available and the reasons why evaluation should be considered a valuable tool for program improvement.


W.K. Kellogg Foundation Logic Model Development Guide

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s website features a variety of valuable resources pertaining to evaluation. This guide, in particular, includes a comprehensive introduction to logic models as well as exercises nonprofits can utilize while engaging in the process of developing a program logic model.

Learning From Logic Models: An Example of a Family/School Partnership Program

This resource offers a step-by-step guide to developing a logic model for a program’s or organization’s evaluation, and it is particularly relevant for program practitioners. The guide provides a model for practitioners to revisit often and use as a feedback and learning tool.

Learning From Logic Models in Out-of-School Time

What is a logic model? What are the benefits of developing one? This brief article includes an introduction to the uses and benefits of logic models and provides a guide to developing a logic model for an out-of-school time program.

Everything You Wanted to Know About Logic Models But Were Afraid to Ask

In this paper, Connie C. Schmitz and Beverly A. Parsons provide helpful and concise answers to a variety of questions practitioners may have about logic models. Among other topics, the report includes a discussion of how logic models differ from action plans and of how much detail should be included in a logic model.


Lessons From Paper Airplanes

Improvement science offers insights into how to utilize data effectively and problem solve creatively. In this blog article, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching shares three recommendations for using improvement science to increase the quality of classroom practices. The three recommendations were gleaned from an unlikely exercise: reliably landing paper airplanes.

Improvement Science” Seen as Emerging Tool in K‒12 Sphere

With roots in the health care field, improvement science is now being used as a tool for improving K‒12 education. This article from Education Week explores how improvement science can be used to pinpoint promising practices.

Improvement Discipline in Practice

Educators expend considerable energy trying to improve their classroom practices. In this article, Alicia Grunow of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching stresses that “getting good at getting better” requires that educators invest in formal methods of improvement.

 Continuous Improvement in Education Research Grants

Through the Continuous Improvement in Education Research Grants, the Institute of Education Sciences is supporting research institutions and state or local education agencies in conducting continuous improvement research. The institute requires the partnerships to address an education issue or solve an education problem that has important implications for student outcomes.

Science of Improvement  

Learn how the Institute for Healthcare Improvement utilizes the science of improvement when working with health systems, countries, and organizations. The staff members discuss the value of starting improvement efforts on a small scale and utilizing small, rapid-cycle tests of change.


An Introduction to Theory of Change

What is a theory of change? What is the process of creating a theory of change? How does a theory of change differ from a logic model? In this article, discover the answers to these and many other questions, and learn why it is beneficial to create and refine a theory of change.

Implementing a Theories of Change Evaluation in the Cleveland Community-Building Initiative

Using the Cleveland Community-Building Initiative as an example, Sharon Milligan, Claudia Coulton, and Peter York explain how a theories of change approach can be used to address the constraints of traditional evaluation techniques. They share preliminary lessons from utilizing a theory of change approach in a community setting.

Evaluating Complicated—and Complex—Programs Using Theory of Change

Patricia Rogers explains how using a theory of change approach can be difficult when evaluating programs that are both complicated and complex. She explains that doing so calls for a flexible theory of change and uses the evaluation of the Australian Government’s Stronger Families and Communities Strategy as an example.

Theory of Change: A Practical Tool for Actions, Results, and Learning

This toolkit from the Annie E. Casey Foundation is valuable for community advocates looking to better understand theory of change and develop their own model.


Looking the Enemy in the Eye: Gazing Into the Mirror of Evaluation Practice

David Chavis, president of the Association for the Study and Development of Community at the time of this interview, shares suggestions for how evaluators can build and develop better relationships with evaluation consumers. He argues that relationship-building time needs to be considered as important as data analysis.

Learning From the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Evaluation Grants Program

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s three-year Evaluation Grants Program aimed to advance an innovative approach to funding evaluation. In this article, Heather Weiss and Karen Horsch of Harvard Family Research Project share lessons learned from the Grants Program approach, with a focus on how the evaluator‒organization relationship can be strengthened.

The Indiana State PIRC’s Collaborative Evaluation Process

A strong, collaborative relationship between the director of the Indiana State PIRC and the program evaluator was critical in helping the evaluation to thrive. This article shares tips for building positive relationships between an evaluator and a program, such as the need for clarity and consistency and for mutual respect.

Evaluating Nonprofit Advocacy Simply: An Oxymoron?

Marcia Egbert and Susan Hoechstetter share nine principles to guide evaluators and advocates in advocacy evaluation, including the need to value capacity building as a key outcome measure and the importance of measuring influence in creative ways.

Beyond Basic Training

In these articles, the authors share a number of tips for building and sustaining successful relationships between evaluators and stakeholders, and discuss lessons learned from using a participatory approach to evaluation.

A Conversation With Gary Henry

Gary Henry, now a Patricia and Rodes Hart Distinguished Professor of Public Policy and Education in the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organization at Peabody College, Vanderbilt University, shares his perspectives on evaluation use and influencing change through evaluation.

What’s Different About Evaluating Advocacy and Policy Change?

What are the differences between evaluating programs or direct services and evaluating advocacy and policy change? In this article, Julia Coffman shares both the similarities and the differences, and highlights four recommendations for evaluators who work in the advocacy and policy change field.

Democratic Evaluation Approaches for Equity and Inclusion

Democratic evaluation is an effective approach for evaluating programs in which there are issues about equity and inclusion for children, youth, and families. In this article, Katherine Ryan, professor emerita at the University of Illinois, shares three approaches to democratic evaluation.


Working Together: The Paloma-Wellesley Guide to Participatory Program Evaluation

This guide on participatory program evaluation from the Paloma Foundation and Wellesley Institute is a valuable resource for nonprofit organizations looking to evaluate program effectiveness. It provides a comprehensive introduction to participatory program evaluation as well as a variety of tools and resources.


A special thanks to Harvard Graduate School of Education student Christina Simpson who compiled this resource guide with assistance from Laura Alves.


This resource is part of the November FINE Newsletter. The FINE Newsletter shares the newest and best family engagement research and resources from Harvard Family Research Project and other field leaders. To access the archives of past issues, please visit

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Published by Harvard Family Research Project