Choosing an approach or model for evaluation is an important aspect since for each there are different assumptions about what data to collect, how to collect them and how to make judgments about success or failure. The following major approaches can provide a sufficient choice for most extension evaluation situations.
Expert Evaluation Model
This approach relies on expert judgment. Usually documentation is prepared in advance of experts’ visits. The expert then interviews, analyses documents and make judgments using their own judgment perspectives or those set as standards by the outside organizations such as the FAO or by stakeholders.
• Documents (reports) prepared by officials responsible for implementation could be biased
• The expert could be having his/her own biases influenced by performances elsewhere without taking into considerations the realities on ground.
• Standards set might not necessary work everywhere.
Goal-Free Evaluation Model
This approach assumes that outside evaluators do not know, or need to now what the programme has intended to accomplish, but that is the task of the evaluators to uncover what is actually happening relative to farmers’ interests regardless of stated goals and intentions.
The focus point is to identify environmental and farming conditions and then to compare these needs with what people are actually experiencing as a result of the extension programme. The gap is then viewed as the starting point for making changes in the programme.
This approach relies heavily on open-ended interviewing and observations by persons who do not have a vested interest in the programme.
• Farmer’s interests are indeed central to any programme, but that is not everything. We need also to know how best did the process go, what kind of inputs were used and efficiently they were used. What were the problems during implementation and how they could have been rectified?
Attainment of Objectives Evaluation Model
This approach assumes that the success of a programme can be determined by measuring a programme’s outcomes against its own goals or objectives. This type of evaluation begins with clarifying measurable objectives and the gathering data that validate the extent to which these objectives have been met.
• If the attainment of objectives evaluation is anticipated, programmes are often tempted to set goals so low that outcomes will be attained easily, thus appearing to be successful while ignoring major challenges.
• It tends to ignore the extension process, thereby failing to provide explanations for the outcomes.
• It is possible to use internal experts as long as the objectives are well defined.
Management Decision Evaluation Model
The purpose of this model is to provide relevant information as a management tool to decision makers. It assumes that evaluation should be geared to decisions during programme initiation and operation stages to make results more relevant at each particular stage.
Participation of stakeholders is central to the process because evaluation should serve their decisions. Sometimes cost effectiveness and operations monitoring are included.
• There is a tendency for decisions of the major stakeholders to be viewed as more important than those of various types of farmers especially women, unless special care is taken.
The model assumes that the programme is a natural experiment and that the purpose of evaluation is to understand how the programme is operating in its natural environment.
Data should be collected and analysed from multiple perspectives since the assumption is that programmes are negotiated realities among the significant stakeholders and that the evaluation serves this value laden negotiation.
The outcome of the evaluation is dialogue concerning disagreements about objectives, expectations, problems, procedures, opportunities, policies and suggested changes in methods or activities.
• Many positive collaborative changes can be made through this model if conflict resolution skills are combined with evaluation.
Experiment Evaluation Model
The purpose is to determine whether changes in programme outcomes were due to the contributions of the programme and not just to life experiences or from other influences.
To be able to compare you need at least two groups where one receives educational treatment and another not.
• Because of the nature of human subjects, the ethics of withholding educational services and the difficulty of controlling for external influences it is extremely difficult to operationalise this model.
• Can be used only when major changes are expected or a major failure is anticipated in pilot efforts where causal claims are central to making major programme investments
Participatory Evaluation Model
The purpose of this model is for extension educators and farmers to initiate a critical reflection process focussed on their own activities.
The model assumes a democratic participatory process along with autonomy on the part of educators and learners.
This is the form of what is usually termed “participatory action research”.
• People on the receiving end are ultimately the best judges of impact whether benefits have been produced or not.
• Being involved will show farmers that they are regarded as responsible and not just passive beneficiaries.
• It is self-educating process to all participants and encourages development of human capacities especially among farmers.
• Can speed implementation when participants take greater ownership of the efforts.
• It is time consuming
• Farmers’ lack of experience may drag the process.
• Demands greater coordination skills.
BENEFITS AND LIMITATIONS OF PARTICIPATION IN EVALUATION
• Involving people on the receiving end is likely to assure the most efficient allocation of resources and an early identification o ineffective or wasteful use of resources.
• The beneficiaries are ultimately the best people to judge the impact, whether benefits have been produced or not.
• Being included in the planning, implementation and evaluation will show farmers that they are regarded as responsible and capable individuals and not simply beneficiaries.
• It can encourage development of human capacities among farmers and empowerment.
• Can increase sustainability in agricultural development.
• Lack of experience on the part of farmers can drag the process. However that shouldn’t be the reason to abandon participation.
• Lack of resources and organisational skills to implement a participatory process.
• Organizations tend to feel threatened by people’s participation.
Levels of Participation
Farmers provide data and evidence of their achievements along with their reactions to extension without being involved in planning evaluation efforts.
Farmers receive information, evaluation summaries, feedback on extension performance from extension staff but they are not asked to react.
Farmers receive evaluation results and other information from extension staff and are asked to give reactions and recommendations for improving extension processes and resources.
Farmers carry out evaluation of extension in cooperation with extension managers and make decisions regarding changes in providing extension services.
Farmers conduct their own evaluation of extension independently of extension and report their findings to policy makers.
How much participation should farmers have?
Experience has shown that farmers in many extension programmes have participated in the evaluation of extension through farmer associations and committees. However, the most important thing is that farmers have to be involved as much as possible.
For example, Levels 1 and 2 above can be characterised as pseudo participation because they represent paternalism on the part of extension.
Levels 3 and above can be characterised as genuine participation because they represent collaborative or empowering relationships.