Our cooking skills study group recently met to share their ideas and discuss their evaluation challenges. All of them are confident about using at least two approaches or sources of evaluation such as:
- Taking observation notes during the course; and
- Using a participant self-reporting approach by asking participants to fill in questionnaires before and after the course.
However, we have encouraged members to try and use at least three different approaches, or sources of information, or ‘triangulation’ as we want the study group to have robust evidence about the impact of their courses.
We encouraged them ask for information about participants from support workers or referral agencies but this is not always easy or appropriate, so here are a few other ideas they had about alternative or additional sources of information which could help make up their third source:
- Photos (or videos)
Photos can enhance an evaluation report as they can help readers see what has been achieved. But they don’t work well as evidence about impact unless there’s some information that explains the context or / and there are photos showing baseline information. For example, a gardening project can show a series of pictures of how a garden has developed over time. But evidence relevant to cooking skills courses, such as skill development or increased fruit and veg consumption is more difficult.
One good example we have had so far, is from a study group member that had observed that a participant (a child) had no skills to make a cheese sauce at the beginning of a course, but after the course the parent showed a photo of their child making the cheese sauce again themselves at home (even stronger evidence would be a video of them making the sauce). This showed evidence that the recipe learned on the course had been made again at home, and that the child had developed their skills (both were aims of the course). Although this photo evidence is not that ‘robust’ on its own, it does nicely back up the other information that had been gathered.
- Quizzes and assessments.
Many groups like to use informal quizzes with individuals or groups of participants to test their knowledge. If these are done at the start of the course and again at the end, these are a good way of showing what a participant has (or hasn’t) learned. Group quizzes can be fun for some groups and encourage friendly competition, but obviously these will only show the increased knowledge of the whole group rather than individuals.
Some practitioners encourage participants to complete the REHIS Elementary cooking skills course. This formal accreditation measures a participants’ cooking skills very well, however, you would need to also gather some base-line information about their cooking skills in order to assess what skills they had developed and which ones they had already. You could do this through observing their development or by formally assessing their skills at the start of the course.
- Physical or other evidence
You may be able to gather more ‘physical’ evidence of how your course may have influenced change for participants, this could include (with their permission):
- taking note of a participant’s weight loss (if the participant was overweight), or other physical changes that a participant experiences since the start of your course,
- changes in food purchasing or eating behaviour (e.g. if you run a cooking course at a youth cafe you could observe any changes in what foods are bought at the café, or what foods participants bring in to eat)
- Outcomes such as a participant gaining employment, further training or a placement within a café (depending on what the aims of your course are).