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This article was originally published in the Nov.-Dec. 2016 NEFE Digest.
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.
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.
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.
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 .
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