Feb. 23, 2018

Student-led project reflects passion to help people do what they do, only better

Program Evaluation Toolkit now available for everyone to use
Clare Hickie, left, Art Assoiants and Nina Frampton celebrate the release of the program evaluation toolkit, new University of Calgary resource supporting growth and development. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary
Clare Hickie, left, Art Assoiants and Nina Frampton celebrate the release of the program evaluation

With a natural aversion to change, humans often have the mindset that if it’s not broken, why fix it? But if we aren’t making a conscious effort to continuously improve, we may miss out on opportunities to grow and excel.  

Fuelled by a passion to help people do what they do, only better, graduate student in counselling psychology Art Assoiants, and undergraduate psychology students Clare Hickie and Nina Frampton combined efforts to create the Program Evaluation Toolkit. Released on Feb. 15, the toolkit aims to create a culture of evaluation and growth at the University of Calgary. 

  • Clare Hickie, left, Art Assoiants and Nina Frampton are pictured above, celebrating the release of the toolkit.

“At the most basic level, this toolkit is an accessible resource to help introduce the UCalgary community to program evaluation,” Hickie says. “It offers an explanation about what program evaluation is, why it’s important, and how to begin incorporating evaluation on a daily basis.”

Although regular program evaluation is often overlooked, the group stresses its importance. “Sometimes we get so caught up making our programs the best they can be, we don’t take the time to reflect on the entire process,” Hickie explains.

“Program evaluation allows us to take a step back and see where we’re going, how we can improve our processes, and how well we’re achieving our objectives,” Assoiants adds.

Although initially created to enhance mental health programming on campus, since the team conducted more than 60 interviews with UCalgary stakeholders Frampton believes the toolkit can be applied to other programs. “This toolkit was created with the voices of program managers throughout the university and is based on the values, ideas, and needs they expressed,” she says.

“It’s a collaborative project and is meant to make everyone feel supported so they can engage in effective program evaluation with the proper language, tools and skills needed to attain their goals.”  

Program evaluation encourages reflection and growth in UCalgary communities

While the toolkit is tailored toward students, faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars overseeing programs at UCalgary, program evaluation is an important skill for everyone's development. “There are a lot of growth opportunities when evaluation becomes a norm,” Hickie states.

“Whether or not you have a future in program evaluation, the toolkit can help you be more effective in your role,” Frampton explains. “When you have the opportunity for reflection, it can make you more connected to the work you do. Not only does it give you greater motivation and a sense of pride, but it can also be a helpful resource to demonstrate the impact your programs have.”

Initiated by the program evaluation subcommittee, part of the larger CMHS implementation committee, the program evaluation toolkit is funded by the Advanced Education, Mental Health and Addictions Grant and the Campus Mental Health Strategy (CMHS) to directly address one of the strategy’s 28 recommendations.

“The CMHS recommends developing a robust evaluation strategy on campus. By offering foundational resources and necessary tools in an accessible way, the toolkit supports program managers striving to meet this goal,” Assoiants says.

“The CMHS is all about creating a more connected campus and community — the toolkit really supports that,” Hickie adds. “It offers an opportunity to reflect on programs and the process behind them, while ensuring evaluators and managers have a greater sense of accountability.”

While program evaluation is developed on a project basis, the team hopes to inspire a sense of connectedness and self-reflection on campus, putting program evaluation front and centre.

“We hope the toolkit can help ignite a culture of evaluation where the community feels supported to engage in ongoing reflection and continuous improvement,” Assoiants says. “Overall, we hope this toolkit is a step towards making evaluation a common practice, not an afterthought.”

Get started on program evaluation today. Visit the Program Evaluation Toolkit website and download the full toolkit.

The University of Calgary’s Campus Mental Health Strategy is a bold commitment to the importance of mental health and well-being of our university family. Our vision is to be a community where we care for each other, learn and talk about mental health and well-being, receive support as needed, and individually and collectively realize our full potential. If you think you need help, please visit resources here. If you think someone you know needs help, find more information here