ENVIRON  590-01: Evaluating Environmental Programs

Fall 2022

Instructor: Charlotte Clark

Program evaluation is an essential skill among environmental managers, educators, and decision-makers. Programs designed to manage environmental resources, to produce an engaged citizenry committed to this management, and/or to actually ensure that environmental improvements result, need to be systematically evaluated to ensure that outcomes are achievable, and that continuous learning leads to improvements in selection and achievement of these outcomes. This continuous learning towards improvement, or program evaluation, must be done in a way that takes the social context into consideration, and incorporates culturally responsive and equitable principles.

However, environmental programs are often under-resourced, and staff do not have the skills and/or time to evaluate their effectiveness. Evaluation can seem daunting and overwhelming. As a result, programs continue with business as usual, doing what they have traditionally done, or relying on anecdotal evidence to inform change. Through this class, students will gain skills to understand how to evaluate organizations of multiple sizes and resource levels. We will cover ways to design and conduct evaluations, ways to interpret evaluations, and ways to critique evaluations. We will focus on evaluation that is inclusive of a lens of culturally responsive and equitable concepts.

We will consider these topics at three levels: gaining competence in these activities as individuals, infusing an ethic of program evaluation organizationally, and considering how to roll-up evaluations collectively, or across multiple programs or organizations to tell a story more broadly.

This is a collaborative project and community-engaged course, meaning that student learning is driven by collaborative research, analysis, and communication on an applied project that extends across the entire semester. This includes student teamwork, and generation of an authentic product – in this case an evaluation plan for real-world clients – Environmental Educators of North Carolina, and the NC Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs. We will address “real-life” evaluation challenges, and will explore current debates and developments in the field.

Learning Objectives
  • Define various types of program evaluation, and suggest optimal example uses of each type.
  • Work collaboratively in a team and with a client, incorporating real world resources and constraints to:
  • Design, produce, edit, and critique a programmatic Theory of Change and a Logic Model to inform evaluation of environmental literacy in the state of North Carolina. A Theory of Change and Logic Model are essential components of any evaluation plan.
  • Design a program evaluation plan for the client supported by that Theory of Change and Logic Model.
  • Understand how to address situations where program evaluation is perceived as a threat to people or coalitions within institutions.
  • Develop a hypothetical evaluation plan for an organization of interest to you.
  • Critique a program evaluation that is of interest to you.
Collaborate for a Common Goal
  • Generate team expectations, roles, and policies by developing a Team Charter
  • Create a system for communicating as a team that allows for multiple perspectives
  • Identify a team’s strengths
  • Collaboratively identify team obstacles and develop strategies for overcoming them
  • Formulate constructive comments that are nonjudgmental and enhance motivation
  • Evaluate team processes via self- and team-assessments

See other Service-Learning and Community-Engaged Courses for Fall 2021 on the Duke Service-Learning site.

  • Service-Learning/Community-Engaged Course