Program Evaluation Update: hEr VOLUTION + STEMing UP
I'm quite keen about program evaluation. One reason why this is so is because I enjoy the process of extracting meaning from data, and the other; that it allows me to test and ground my creative hunches. The latter is probably not very clear so please allow me to elaborate by using an example for a program I am currently evaluating:
I've recently been working with Doina Oncel, the Founder of hEr VOLUTION, on evaluating one of the many programs she runs: the STEMing Up Program. This program is meant to provide underprivileged young girls with the necessary (hard) skills required to pursue STEM-related careers. I was very excited to receive the opportunity because the objective and goal of the program spoke to something that is important to me: It is designed to inject STEM careers/industries with the necessary diversity they so desperately need.
Physical diversity is important as it is the easiest and most organic way to promote diversity of thought and processes. I have discussed the importance of diversity while using a systematic framework in this post. This program is also important because it opens the door to a diverse range of career options to a segment of the population that may not have full access to them otherwise. Because of what the STEMing Up program offers, I was motivated to come up with creative, but relevant KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) to assess the programs’ effectiveness at getting these young girls ready for exciting STEM-related careers!
The more obvious measures are assessing (hard skill) learning through traditional mediums such as tests, etc. But we’re not here to follow the herd as there are many more important components to learning!
Through my own experience in the higher-ed sector as well as background research I do, I suspected that there were unconventional (and more interesting) measures to learning acquisition we could pursue. I hypothesized that there are “hidden” aspects to learning and that these hidden aspects are tied to the development of soft skills such as confidence and resilience and also play a role in learning acquisition. Interestingly, by examining these more “hidden” aspect to learning, we fell upon an inherent strength of the STEMing-UP program itself! Specifically, first-pass analysis is suggesting that feelings of inclusion and belongingness (the hidden aspects) may have an influence on learning. Furthermore, feelings of inclusion and belongingness also help with comfort levels in sharing thoughts and ideas (which is great because participation helps with learning) and, subsequently, builds confidence. So you can almost say that the hidden components of learning are actually fundamental drivers contributing to the learning environment and learning acquisition.
These creative hunches have proven to be useful in three main ways: a) with the establishment and explicit identification of these hidden components to learning, we are now able to develop and further build upon future evaluation pathways which may provide insight on novel understandings of learning acquisition b) we located an inherent strength of the program and can now leverage the value and benefit of the STEMing Up program in grant applications and branding c) most importantly, we can nurture these inherent strengths to make this program better for future iterations, and subsequently help prepare these young girls not only for STEM-related careers, but for the ebbs and flows of life.
I look forward iterating through these creative hunches and assisting, where I can, to help strengthen this very valuable program and hEr VOLUTION.
Thank you Doina for this amazing opportunity and can't wait for round 2!