How to Use the CIPP Model for Program Evaluation

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The CIPP model represents a holistic approach to conducting evaluations of education, health and other public programs. The acronym CIPP represents the four main components of this type of evaluation: context, input, process and product. This model examines the context, goals, resources, implementation and outcomes of a public program, and is designed to provide comprehensive information for program managers that can guide operations and identify areas of improvement. Using the CIPP model in evaluation requires a step-by-step approach that encompasses the four components.

  • Interview members of the program management to develop an understanding of the problems that the program is designed to solve. This is an important element of understanding program context, one of the key components of the CIPP model. Ask for any relevant documents describing the program and for any empirical data that demonstrate the existence of the problem the program addresses. For example, if an after-school tutoring program is designed to improve student scores on standardized mathematics tests, you should examine data from past school years to determine the level of student achievement in math prior to the program. After articulating the problems and challenges, you should then state the intended goals and objectives of a program.

  • Compile a list of available resources the program will use to address the problem. This is the inputs, or I, component of CIPP. A program requires inputs, such as funding and personnel, to achieve its goals. A tutoring program, for example, requires tutors, instructional space and funding for books, calculators, pencils, paper and other classroom materials. Sources for identifying inputs include the program budget and planning documents. When assessing inputs, be sure to consider issues of quality as well as quantity. An important factor, for example, may be the tutors' qualifications, including whether they are certified school teachers or volunteers, such as college students.

  • Monitor and document the program’s activities. This is the process component of CIPP. You can gain information on the program’s process through a variety of methods, including surveys, interviews and participant observation. You can interview or survey program personnel and intended beneficiaries of the services to document service delivery. Program records, such as student attendance records for tutoring sessions, yield other valuable data for evaluating activities and processes. When assessing the process, compile interim progress reports on program activities to keep program management and other decision-makers informed. The needs of management and other stakeholders will determine the number of interim reports needed, as well as the level of detail the reports should contain.

  • Analyze program outcomes and impacts, which encompass the product component of the CIPP model. Keep the program’s goals in mind when assessing the outcomes. Using the tutoring program as an example, you should determine whether students who received the tutoring demonstrated higher levels of improvement in math than their peers who did not participate in the program. You also can interview program personnel and intended beneficiaries of the services to gather their perceptions of the program’s outcomes.

  • Compile a comprehensive evaluation report that addresses the four major components of CIPP: context, inputs, process and product. There are many approaches to organizing an evaluation report, but making each component a major section is one method. Write the report in clear, concise language that emphasizes active voice and minimizes the use of technical jargon. Use tables and charts to highlight findings. Many evaluations close with a set of recommendations for program improvement. If your report includes recommendations, make sure you can support your recommendations with evidence gathered in the evaluation.

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