Frequently Asked Quesitons

Steps in Choosing the CSU STEM Center as Evaluators

If you have a STEM education project or a proposal for a project, and you are considering the CSU STEM Center for evaluation, please read through the frequently asked questions about the process.

How do I get started?

Send an email to stem_center@mail.colostate.edu describing your project and providing contact information for us to reach you. If available, you should also attach pertinent documents such as a Letter of Intent or project summary. We will then contact you to set up a meeting or phone call to discuss your project and needs in more detail. The discussion we have will inform us and you on the appropriateness of our role as evaluator on your project.

What will you want to know when we talk?

In addition to the background information on your project, we will ask you questions such as the following to better understand your needs:

  • What are the intended goals and outcomes of the project?
  • What do you want to learn about the project?
  • Do you have an evaluation role in mind for the STEM Center? If so, what is it?
  • What’s the timeline for the project and when would the STEM Center be involved?
  • If submitting a proposal, what is the timeline for proposal submission?
  • Have you already budgeted for the evaluation? If so, what did you budget?

If you don’t have answers to all these questions, don’t worry! Given enough lead time, we can help you flesh out the different aspects of your program that will enable you to answer these questions.

How much should I budget for evaluation? What does that cover?

Guidelines for evaluation budgets vary by funding agency and other factors. While there are general guidelines for evaluation budgets (about 10-15% of the overall budget), ultimately the cost for individual evaluations will depend on the nature and scope of the work proposed in the evaluation plan. Some examples are below:

  • Process evaluations and more advisory roles that do not entail as much data collection and analysis as other types of evaluations may cost less than 10% of the total budget.
  • Summative evaluation assessing project impact involves work throughout the life of the project to develop and pilot methods and measures, in addition to the works at the end of the project to address the evaluation goals. This may cost 10-15% of the total project budget.
  • Evaluation research, where program impact is one of the primary goals, may cost half or more of the overall budget.

These are just examples of possible evaluation costs. Ultimately evaluation cost will be affected by the design of the overall evaluation, including: numbers of participants, types of data and analyses, extent of measure and instrument development required, amount of travel, and other factors. These all affect the amount of time and resources used by evaluators to complete the evaluation.

Other costs to consider for the evaluation budget are costs for travel and stipends for evaluation participants who will most likely be a subset of program participants engaging in extra evaluation activities as appropriate. You should also include our own indirect overhead costs if your funding agency allows for the collection of indirect costs. We will work with you to develop a scope for our evaluation work that matches your needs and budget and aligns with the overall scope of the project. Generally, we will not charge you for the cost of our time in developing the proposal with you.

How long will it take to develop an evaluation plan?

The time it takes us to develop and evaluation plan for you may be different for each project as it depends on your project and the role of the evaluator in developing your research and/or evaluation plan. Generally, we ask that you contact us as soon as you have a project conceptualized and know you will need evaluation work done. However, because the timeline for evaluation plan development is so situational, some examples are provided below:

  • If you have already clearly defined your project and the role you have in mind for the evaluator, it may take as little as two weeks to develop an evaluation plan after the initial discussion (although we prefer a longer lead time if possible)
  • After reading through the project description and implementation plan, we may find areas that are less clear than originally thought. We may also find aspects of the plan that would be difficult, unethical, or expensive to carry out during an evaluation. In such cases, we would suggest changes project for the sake of clarity and feasibility. This process would likely take a few weeks in addition to the example above of collaborative discussion.
  • If you would like the CSU STEM Center to collaborate on the development and implementation of a research plan, we usually recommend contacting us before drafting the proposal, as we would play an integral role in development of the proposal and would likely be involved in the project as a Co-PI rather than an evaluator. This might begin a few months or more before the proposal is due, depending on the project’s complexity.

Are there specific documents I will need from the CSU STEM Center?

Specific documents needed for proposal submission or for currently funded projects vary by funding organization. We will provide you with any support documents required in your particular situation in addition to the evaluation plan narrative, any tables or figures relevant to the evaluation, and citations used in the evaluation. Examples of documents we have provided on past projects are presented below:

  • Biographical sketches for pertinent CSU STEM Center staff (formatted for individual agencies)
  • Statements of organizational capacity
  • Letters of support or commitment
  • Curriculum vitae for pertinent CSU STEM Center staff
  • Current and pending support statements for pertinent CSU STEM Center staff
  • Budgets and/or budget justifications for evaluation work