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This article was originally published in the Nov.-Dec. 2016 NEFE Digest.
You have designed your financial education intervention, workshop or program using trusted, vetted resources. You have created meaningful activities based on learning objectives. You have a well-trained educator ready to deliver the curriculum to your target audience. The students are ready. The teacher is ready. So, how will you know if your program is successful or not? NEFE’s financial education evaluation resources can help.
A financial education program without evaluation is similar to an explorer without a compass. Without a compass, an explorer is not able to decide whether he or she is on the right track. Without an evaluation, the educator can’t know for sure whether the financial program is producing successful results and meeting the audience’s needs.
The process of systematically assessing the implementation of a financial education intervention by comparing learner achievements with program goals and objectives to identify the intervention’s strengths and weaknesses.
Evaluation gives you data to inform the future actions of your program. This data can help you enhance what is working and change or eliminate what is not. A successful evaluation can be used to:
Begin with the end in mind.
Design your evaluation based upon the desired program outcomes. What is the ultimate goal of the intervention? What exactly is it that you want learners to know and be able to do as a result of the intervention?
Be realistic about outcomes.
What are realistic expectations given the material covered in the intervention, the time frame, the delivery method and the audience? A one-time workshop presented to learners with very low financial literacy can expect different outcomes than a semester-long course presented to learners with high financial literacy.
Choose the right evaluator.
Some programs can be evaluated adequately by internal program staff, while other programs benefit from hiring an objective external party to conduct the evaluation.
Include stakeholders from the start.
Build an advisory team that includes any and all stakeholders who will be interested in and/or affected by the evaluation results. This includes program staff, funders, administrators, decision makers and learners. Make sure that you understand what data each of these stakeholders hopes to see in the evaluation.
Plan the evaluation before program implementation.
Effective evaluation covers the full spectrum of the intervention – from a pretest or survey that establishes the learners’ baseline starting point, to a post-test or survey that measures the learners’ knowledge and skill growth immediately following the intervention, and in ideal situations, a longer-term post-test or survey that assesses the lasting behavioral change for an extended time (from six months to a year or longer) after the intervention.
The ultimate goal of evaluation is to collect data that helps your program achieve its mission — in financial education, that mission often involves changing learners’ behavior over an extended period of time. Learners typically don’t achieve this type of change overnight. In general, financial education out comes advance up a hierarchy.
Learning to change
Evaluations show learners’ satisfaction with the program and changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and aspirations.
Taking action to change
Evaluations show learners’ first steps toward practicing and becoming comfortable with the changes they are working toward.
Maintaining long-term change
Evaluations show improved circumstances as a result of lasting behavioral change.
The outcomes your program can expect vary with the type of program, the fidelity of program implementation, and the age and financial literacy of the participants. Short-term outcomes are easier to measure and document than long-term outcomes. For example, it’s easier to conduct an immediate post-intervention test measuring learners’ knowledge of how interest rates work than it is to assess whether the learner made the “right” decision when financing a car six months after the intervention.
First-Time Homebuyer Education Program
Debt Reduction Education Program
Learners’ outcomes also are affected by their age and stage of life development. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)’s Developmental Model of Youth Financial Capability offers guidelines to help aim interventions at age-appropriate target outcomes. To view the CFPB financial well-being model, visit www.consumerfinance.gov.
Executive function – self-control, working memory, problem solving
Healthy financial habits and norms – Heathly money habits and norms, e.g., frugality, saving, planning ahead, considering personal values in decision making
Financial knowledge and decision-making skills – Factual knowledge, research and analysis skills, how to be an informed consumer
Financial well-being – Control of day-to-day finances, ability to absorb financial shocks, on track with goals, financial freedom to enjoy life
Are you ready to design your financial education program evaluation? NEFE’s Financial Education Evaluation Toolkit (Toolkit.nefe.org) has resources to help you, including NEFE’s Financial Education Evaluation Manual and a database of evaluation forms, templates and questions to get you started.
Download the full November-December 2016 Digest(.pdf).
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