WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO EVALUATE?
AND WHY DO IT?
A fundamental part of the framework is the need to use evaluation as a tool to make communication activities more effective at meeting their intended goals. Too often, scientists doing informal communication do not consider evaluation. Evaluation is the only way to assess whether goals and outcomes have been met. Furthermore, determining what will be evaluated at the outset of communication planning will aid in the development of a communications activity that is more likely to meet the intended goals and outcomes. The evaluation process entails learning about intended participants, gathering advanced feedback about communication design, and figuring out how to determine whether the goals and outcomes have been met.
Evaluation consists of three stages, which occur during the design, implementation, or assessment of a communication activity:
- Front-end evaluation: Obtain information about participants to help develop or modify goals and outcomes (Element 1)
- Formative evaluation: Obtain participant responses before or during
an activity to assess its effectiveness before it has been fully carried out (Elements 3 and 4)
- Summative evaluation: Determine if the communication activity achieved its intended goals and outcomes (Element 5)
Evaluation does not have to be complicated or costly. It has value in its simplest form and should be scaled to the scope of the communications activity. For larger-scale activities it may be important to collaborate with a third-party expert evaluator.
USING THE FRAMEWORK
Chemists might speak at a local Rotary Club meeting or host a booth at a science festival or perhaps work with a science museum to develop a series of Saturday morning science activities for kids. Other communication activities may include giving public lectures; being interviewed on a radio program; participating in hands-on learning activities in museums; writing books, articles, blogs, and Web-based materials; and using online engagement platforms to improve public access to and understanding of chemistry. Current modes of digital communication on the Internet, such as video sharing (e.g., YouTube), social networking (e.g., Facebook), and microblogging (e.g., Twitter), present new opportunities for chemists to communicate with members of the public.
Guidance on how to use each element of the framework to plan communication events is provided. An example of a chemist making a presentation at a community center is used throughout to illustrate how the framework can be used.