Chapter 8. International REU Site Project Evaluation

Whereas exit surveys and post-program evaluations address REU site performance with regard to student participants and their hosts, longitudinal data are needed to evaluate the program’s achievement of its broader overall objectives and goals.

8.1 Conduct longitudinal tracking of participants through follow-up communications and surveys

Longitudinal tracking of student participants with regard to continued interest in their academic field of study, to their career paths, and to the lasting influences of the international research experience offers important insights into the effectiveness of the international REU program. Develop appropriate measures to assess student commitment to and progress in academic programs in the sciences, and to gauge the impact of the international REU program on improved global awareness and cross-cultural competence. Outcome measures include: Develop the long-term survey instruments in parallel with those for the end of program evaluation to be sure that important items are addressed in one or the other.

Regular, conscientious communication with program alumni facilitates tracking and will prevent lapses leading to loss of contact and low response rates in subsequent surveys. Use the alumni Web site to stay in touch, and use it to issue appeals for help in locating “lost alumni” (Section 7.3.1). Maintaining an up-to-date database of past participants promotes a fast start to longitudinal evaluations.


8.2 Assure accurate financial reporting

In addition to meeting the project director’s basic responsibility for fiscal accountability, end-of-program-year financial accounting, reporting and review leads to more efficient program operation. Optimization of program size or of maximum participant capacity has strong financial underpinnings. Apply cost-benefit analysis to individual program components in assessing their value to the program overall. Use the results of the financial audit to guide the preparation of budget requests in renewal proposals.


8.3 Make course corrections

Altogether, program evaluation guides mid-course corrections, both short-term (over the course of a single program cycle) and long-term (over the lifetime of the program). Successful program staff open-mindedly consider suggestions for change, and thoughtfully adopt changes where indicated. For a new international REU site program director, lessons learned early and the timely resolution of program deficiencies will improve program operation, participant and mentor satisfaction, and long-term success.




Acknowledgments


Last updated July, 2002