In this memo, the main goal is to choose a non-profit program that can be applied to veteran student performance and propose a program evaluation regarding an appropriate program theory and a design that includes a “theory of change” diagram. The decision to choose the Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP) program is made because of two main reasons. First, this non-profit program engages veterans and military families in a variety of activities to promote their expressions, skills, social support, and communication.
Second, it includes several art forms such as stand-up comedy, improvement, creative writing, and storytelling, and veteran students are free to choose an option that meets their interests and abilities. The description of the ASAP program with its goals, target groups, clients, and mechanisms should not be ignored to clarify the peculiarities of the current evaluation.
The next part of this memo is the identification of program theory. A logic model will be used to investigate the relationship between the program’s activities and its outcomes (Chen, 2015). The key features of this theory include the necessity to focus on inputs, activities, outputs, and outcomes. Beforehand, it is also important to integrate needs assessments and program objectives to make sure ASAP meets the requirements of the evaluation. In this section, it is expected to develop evaluation questions and set the project goals. The main question to be answered is as follows: “Can such co-curricular activities as those promoted by the Armed Services Arts Partnership program improve the achievements of student veterans?”.
Finally, the basic aspects of an evaluation design should be mentioned in this memo. A theory of change is the chosen tool with the help of which it is possible to describe the needs that should be addressed and the changes that must be made. It is usually represented in the form of a diagram and aims at considering the assumptions that may facilitate the work. In this case, the ASAP program can be improved in terms of its accessibility to the veterans around all the United States and the introduction of clear guides and assessments for veterans not to be lost or confused regarding the offered variety of options.
Program Choice and Description
The topic of helping veterans in their intentions to get better lives after military services is urgent in many countries. However, the United States seems to be the place where the role of veterans is never ignored, and the government does everything possible to support its people. Among the existing variety of programs and policies, it is hard to choose the best one. Every organization has its goals and mechanisms and deserves special attention.
In terms of this project, the Armed Services Arts Partnership is chosen for evaluation. ASAP aims at helping veterans and various service members in their intentions to reintegrate into society by means of arts (Armed Services Arts Partnership, n.d.). The peculiar feature of this program is its target group or audience. Veterans and their families are not the only clients who may be involved in it. The developers find it necessary to establish a partnership with colleges and other academic facilities where artistic growth can be promoted. In addition, this program focuses on the development of personal skills and attitudes to the world around.
The success of this program can be explained by its effectively chosen mechanisms and ideas. This program is a strong combination of co-curricular activities where veteran students can develop their skills and knowledge in several directions. On the one hand, its variety of values may impress a variety of potential stakeholders. Community respect, personal responsibilities, humor, trust, honesty, and long-life learning are the concepts that help to prepare people for new (or at least changed) life without challenging them with multiple obligations and expectations (Armed Services Arts Partnership, n.d.). On the other hand, there are four main classes where different co-curricular activities are introduced.
Comedy classes deprive veterans of shyness and uncertainty and encourage creative and fast thinking in different situations. “Improv” classes are characterized by a team-oriented and safe environment where people can develop their skills in special ways. Storytelling and writing are the activities for veterans to share their stories and learn how to formulate their thoughts. Students should not choose between the classes but participate in accordance with their demands and interests.
Many reasons can be given to prove why the ASAP program is chosen for the analysis in this evaluation project. Still, such factors as the existing humanistic goals and a variety of options should be mentioned at first. This program is a good chance for veterans to understand their skills and recognize their opportunities. Sometimes, a little help from professionals or volunteers can change a situation and improve the life of a veteran, including performance and attitudes to the country, its population, and the future.
The role of co-curricular activities in veteran students is impressive because they may be developed in a variety of ways, influencing their communication, social support, and cooperation. Although it is hard to predict all the achievements veterans can demonstrate within the chosen program, it is possible to understand that positive changes and outcomes may be observed with time. Regarding the current situation and the available description of the program, a thorough evaluation should be necessary to identify the required improvements.
The choice of a program for evaluation is not the only task one should be ready to complete. An understanding of program theory is an important step that can be used as a guide for a researcher. Any program evaluation is a possibility to apply various empirical social science research methods to a particular program or policy (Langbein, 2012). The choice of a logic model as the main program theory is explained by its popularity and easiness in usage. Its key aspect is the recognition of program components, goals, and effects (Chen, 2015). Langbein (2012) states that any evaluation should be empirical, meaning that it is based not on intuition or personal judgments but on observations and what can be defended observationally. To stay appropriate for evaluation, a logic model should include the following components:
- A statement of a problem or needs assessment (in this case, it is the program’s need to deal with the lack of opportunities for student veterans for developing their skills and knowledge);
- Program objectives (in this case, the program developers aim to support veterans, find out the methods to improve their personal and professional lives, and promote veterans’ reintegration into society);
- Inputs or resources (in this case, the program exists because of volunteers and their time and donations from different foundations and supporters);
- Activities (in this case, the programs is led by the people who educate veterans, create supportive environments for veterans in need, and concentrate on the development of writing, speaking, and thinking abilities);
- Outputs (in this case, the program consists of four different classes with unique goals and directions; these are seven/eight-week courses where veteran students learn the theoretical basics and participate in public performances regularly);
- Outcomes (in this case, it is expected that veterans gain new knowledge, increase their skills in different fields, change their attitudes, and start cooperating within communities).
Regarding the above-mentioned components and expectations, the chosen program has clear goals and the description of activities and outputs. These factors are observable and may affect both, treatment and outcomes. However, there are also several components like inputs and outcomes remain unobservable, meaning that it is difficult to understand the way of how the resources are chosen and used, as well as to compare the results before and after the intervention (courses taken).
Evaluation Design, Questions, and Diagram
A number of various questions can become a significant part of program evaluation, regarding such factors as the existence of a program, the number of participants, and, what is more important, the intentions of those who ask questions. This evaluation has a design that is developed to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. An outcome evaluation design promotes the creation of the following research questions:
- What are the changes in veterans’ attitudes towards life after service?
- Is it possible to improve veterans’ academic performance by means of non-profit programs with co-curricular activities?
- How does the environment change in terms of formal and informal regulations for veterans?
- Are student veterans satisfied with the options offered to them at the chosen classes?
- Do the outcomes justify the incomes in this program?
To achieve some improvements during evaluation, researchers should be ready for change being made within the program. The theory of change that usually takes the form of a diagram can be used to depict the relationships between the components of the program and the processes that cannot be neglected (Chen, 2015). In fact, the diagram is a kind of analog to the already developed logic model where the balance between the need and decision-making should be considered.
Program theory helps to explain how the identified outputs may lead to the defined outcomes and even exceed the expectations. At the same, this diagram is a chance to get a vivid example of the main characteristics of the program and realize if additional improvements and change can be offered to its developers under the current conditions.
In general, evaluation of the ASAP program is a good opportunity to clarify what the American government thinks about its veterans and what options can be offered to people after military services. The ASAP has its strong and weak aspects, and the goal of this evaluation is to identify needs, goals, and inputs and make sure that the required outputs and outcomes are achieved. The impact of education that can be offered to student veterans is incredible. The benefits obtained from a properly chosen evaluation design and the theory of change diagram contribute to a better understanding of veterans’ skills, knowledge, attitudes, and prospects.
Armed Services Arts Partnership. (n.d.). About ASAP. Web.
Chen, H. T. (2015). Practical program evaluation (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Langbein, L. (2012). Public program evaluation: A statistical guide (2nd ed.). Armonk, NY: ME Sharpe.