Monday, February 22, 2010

Assessing Results: Are You a Quant or a Qualit?

In this post, Non-profit Consulant Derek Link offers his thoughts on balanced assessment and evaluation:

In the world of social entrepreneurship the use of metrics for assessment of results has sparked an ongoing debate. The lines have been drawn between mathematically inclined folks who like to measure things using quantitative data (called Quants) and those who want to describe the social impact of programs using primarily qualitative data (called Qualits).

I would refer to myself as a hybrid, a Quali-quant. For me, the argument about which type of data is better is meaningless unless the right questions are being asked. Once you know what you want to know; in other words, once you know what will best demonstrate that your mission is accomplished, the kind of data needed to measure that reveals itself.

And the type of data is usually not one to the exclusion of the other. Typically a result is explained best by viewing it through data binoculars, not through a data telescope. I use the example of a child who comes to school on test day. The Quant will want to examine the child’s test score to see whether he has achieved to an expected level, whether he has raised his achievement from previous test administrations, how he compares to his peers, and how his test scores aggregated reflect on the teacher’s ability and the school’s curriculum and instructional program.

The Qualits, on the other hand, will want to modify the interpretation of the test score with qualitative information. Perhaps the child arrives hungry because the family was late getting up and she never had breakfast. Perhaps the child is sick or was up all night due to family violence. These qualitative factors impact the ability of the child to score well but are difficult or impossible to quantify.

In the end, I believe it is a disservice to the process/program/organization to have an imbalanced approach to assessment of results. Start off by asking the right questions.


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Creative Resources and Research is a consulting firm specializing in grant writing, grant seeking, program evaluation and professional development training. We have worked with hundreds of clients including public and private schools, school districts, universities, non-profit organizations, and social service agencies throughout California, securing over $155 million from federal, state and private foundation funding sources over the past decade. Our primary grant writers and program evaluators have over 50 years of combined experience in the education and social services fields. At CRR we prefer a personal approach to the clients we work with; by developing long term relationships, we are better suited to match client’s needs with available funding sources. We provide a variety of services to help assist you, including grant writing, evaluation consulting, professional development opportunities, and workshops.