The Rucks Group 2020 Fall Newsletter


This fall simultaneously feels familiar and unfamiliar.

If you are like us at The Rucks Group, you are busy finalizing annual reports and working on new grant proposals. All quite normal for this time of year. But this fall, we are doing this while working remotely alongside our family members who are working remotely and our children who are remotely going to school. Even though we have been in this space for months, it still feels just a little bit different.

While we cannot do much about the unfamiliar context we are operating in, we can support the otherwise familiar tasks. Given the breadth of funding opportunities, in this newsletter, we are featuring resources that are relevant to the development of innovations.

As always, if we can be a resource in any way, do not hesitate to reach out to us at info@therucksgroup.com.


Webinar on Grant Proposal Evaluation Plans: This past July, The Rucks Group offered a three-part webinar series to provide a formula for writing an evaluation plan for a grant proposal. Here’s what participants shared about the series:

“I appreciated how the process of creating the evaluation was broken down into steps and how the logic model was explained as being a pictorial representation of the theory of change.”

“[The webinar] was well organized and a good introduction with very usable pointers.”

To review the webinars, visit our newly launched resources page. The page will be continually updated, so we encourage you to frequently visit it. 


Broadening Participation in STEM: The National Science Foundation Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (NSF INCLUDES) recently released a research brief highlighting evidence-based strategies to broaden participation in STEM. This document serves as a reference guide for project teams striving to increase participation of students from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups.


Webinar on NSF ATE Grant Proposal Evaluation Plans: EvaluATE, the evaluation resource center for the National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education (NSF ATE) community, recently hosted a webinar on evaluation plans for NSF ATE proposals. In this webinar, EvaluATE shares “some of the biggest mistakes made in evaluation plans for ATE proposals and how to fix them.”


Webinar - Developmental Evaluation: What is it? How do you do it? Facilitated by Lana Rucks.

Developmental evaluations apply evaluation principles to nascent innovations and complex systems. This approach is useful for evaluating new initiatives as evidenced by the Department of Labor’s solicitation for Strengthening Community Colleges Training Grants promulgating a developmental or adaptive evaluation approach into the grant-funded work.

In this webinar, we will introduce the key concepts of developmental evaluation and explain how to use them by walking through a Department of Labor funded project that used developmental evaluation. Participants will leave the webinar with a better understanding of what developmental evaluation is and how it is applied.

Thursday, September 10; 2:00pET – 2:30pET


Focusing on Student Success

Student success is directly or indirectly central to educators’ work and related grant projects. As such, we invite you to read a recently published EDUCAUSE blog, Student Success in a Changing World. In this highly informative article, authors Steven Mauro and Terry Mills present a model for driving student success that applies to our current remote learning environment. Dr. Mills is a previous guest blogger with The Rucks Group.


Highlighted blog posts:

Student Success Part I: Are we clear about what this means? by guest blogger Dr. Terry Mills
Student Success Part II: How is it defined and what promotes it?
Obtaining Credible Evidence of “Long” Long-Term Outcomes


The Rucks Group, LLC is a research and evaluation firm that gathers, analyses, and interprets data to enable our clients to measure the impact of their work. 

Coffee Break Webinar Series: Developmental Evaluation: What is it? How do you do it?

Join us for our next Coffee Break Webinar on Thursday, September 10, 2020 at 2:00p.m. – 2:30p.m. EDT.

Developmental evaluations apply evaluation principles to nascent innovations and complex systems. This approach is useful for evaluating new initiatives as evidenced by the Department of Labor’s solicitation for Strengthening Community Colleges Training Grants prescribing a developmental or adaptive evaluation to be incorporated into the grant funded work.

In this webinar, we will introduce the key concepts of developmental evaluation and explain how to use them by walking through a Department of Labor-funded project that used developmental evaluation. Participants will leave the webinar with a better understanding of what developmental evaluation is and how it is applied.

About the Presenter: Lana Rucks, Ph.D., brings to her work nearly two decades of research and evaluation experience. Her extensive knowledge in the design and implementation of research and program evaluations is based on her leadership of dozens of evaluation initiatives. She has evaluated projects funded by federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Labor, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation and non-profit organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Kresge Foundation.

The Rucks Group 2020 Summer Newsletter


Many higher education professionals are taking a moment to exhale after a whirlwind experience caused by a most unusual spring semester while also trying to digest an ever-evolving and tumultuous world.

We recently were involved in a conversation with a funder who asked the project team that we are working with, “Given everything around us, does this elevate the importance of program evaluation?” We found this question to be encouraging and motivating.

Program evaluation may seem like a relatively unimportant topic compared to what is swirling around us. Still, through the systematic frame that program evaluation offers, it helps to produce insights for what to do next. At The Rucks Group, our “next” is focusing on identifying solutions to address issues from the perspective of our core competencies. We hope that the resources offered in this newsletter will help you as you determine your “next.”


Coffee Break Webinar Series: Three Part Formula for Writting a Grant Proposal Evaluation.  - July 1, 15, and 29 | 2:00 pm EST

In our increasingly measurement-driven culture, gathering evidence of the difference that an initiative makes is important. Gathering credible evidence of outcomes is an imperative within grant-funded work. Whether you need to write an evaluation plan or review one provided for your project, this webinar series will provide a formula for writing a program evaluation. Webinar participants will come away with an understanding of the evaluation plan elements to scale them for large and small grant proposals.

Wednesdays, July 1, 15, and 29; 2:00pET – 2:30pET


Virtual Career Fair: Connecting Student Career Exploration to Experiential Learning Programs

Example of Columbus State Community College Pivoting to a Virtual Career Fair

We are all deeply aware of the need to “pivot” in these ever-evolving times. Determining the best strategy for how to change directions appropriately can be challenging. We learned about this excellent example of pivoting from an in-person career fair to a virtual one through our work with Columbus State Community College. With their permission, we share this resource, including the language used for disseminating, with our audience.


Additional Resources

HI-TEC 2020 Transformed: The High-Impact Technology Exchange (HI-TEC) Conference is going virtual this year. Look for our session handouts on Using Social Network Analysis to Evaluate the Development of Professional Connectivity with Michael FitzGerald, Ph.D., as the lead presenter in collaboration with Emma Leeburg of EvaluATE. Registration will open soon and is complimentary for the first 350 registrants.


ATE Community Support Webinar: On Wednesday, June 10 at 1:00pET the American Association of Community Colleges, Mentor-Connect, and ATE Central, are sponsoring a webinar intended “to address commonly asked grant management questions.” This webinar is certain to provide lots of great information on to manage current and future NSF ATE grants.


Urban Institute RFPs and RFIs: WorkRise, which is hosted by the Urban Institute, is a research-to-action network forced on jobs, workers, and mobility. WorkRise is seeking request for proposals (RFPs) and request for information (RFIs) to identify research projects in need and funding and “promising, scalable practices” in need of additional support and/or research and evaluation. Responses are due by 11:59pmET, June 29, 2020. 


Highlighted blog posts:

5 Data-Informed Tips for Transitioning from Remote Learning to Online Learning
Reporting Help: Calculating Nearest Person Month
Using Logic Models to Navigate Projects
The Rucks Group 2020 Spring Newsletter


The Rucks Group, LLC is a research and evaluation firm that gathers, analyses, and interprets data to enable our clients to measure the impact of their work. 

Coffee Break Webinar Series: Three-Part Formula for Writing a Grant Proposal Evaluation

In our increasingly measurement-driven culture, gathering evidence of the difference that an initiative makes is important. Gathering credible evidence of outcomes is an imperative within grant-funded work. All too often evaluations of grant-funded initiatives focus on project activities (e.g., outputs) rather than meaningful project impact (e.g., outcomes). Averting this common error is first addressed when writing an evaluation plan for a grant proposal. Whether you need to write an evaluation plan or review one provided for your project, this webinar series will provide a formula for writing a program evaluation plan.  Presented in three-parts, webinar participants will come away with an understanding of the evaluation plan elements to scale them for large and small grant proposals. Time will be allocated to address participants’ specific questions.


Part I: July 1, 2020 2:00p – 2:30p The Foundations: Theory of Change, Logic Models, and  Evaluation Questions The first webinar of the three-part series begins with a brief review of the six key elements that should be included in every evaluation plan. The webinar will then dig into the foundational components of a program evaluation: theory of change, logic models, and evaluation questions.

Part II: July 15, 2020 2:00p – 2:30p The Methods: Evaluation Design and Data Gathering & Analytical Approaches In Part II, building off of the program evaluation foundations, this webinar will focus on the methods of a program evaluation: design, data gathering strategies, and analytical approaches.

Part III:  July 29, 2020 2:00p – 2:30p The Finale: Evaluation Use,  Sharing Findings, and Evaluation Teams In Part III, the final key elements of a program evaluation will be discussed, such as using program evaluation for continuous improvement, reporting to funding agencies, sharing the findings with different audiences, including the necessary personnel involved in the entire process.  Most important, the final segment will pull together all three parts to show participants how to adjust the elements of an evaluation plan to fit the size of the program proposal.

About the Presenter: Lana Rucks, Ph.D., brings to her work nearly two decades of research and evaluation experience. Her extensive knowledge in the design and implementation of research and program evaluations is based on her leadership of dozens of evaluation initiatives. She has evaluated projects funded by federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Labor, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation and non-profit organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Kresge Foundation.

The Rucks Group 2020 Spring Newsletter


By now you have heard, discussed, and thought dozens of times how the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to abandon familiar rhythms of life. The Rucks Group team is doing the same.

We have been asking ourselves what resources can we provide to help the adjustment as it relates to the slice of life that we work in of research and evaluation.  As such, we’re highlighting a variety of resources and information on upcoming events that you may find useful as we all are slowly finding the beats to new rhythms.


Improve

COFFEE BREAK WEBINAR

Now what? How to Use Evaluation Findings for Project Continuous Improvement

You’ve won the grant and now you’re needing to do a program evaluation. There are two general mindsets towards this work: “proving” to demonstrate to funders what you’ve done or “improving” which addresses the proving by focusing the program evaluation on using the information from the program evaluation for project improvement. This complimentary webinar will provide insights into how to realize the true value of evaluation through the lens of continuous improvement and particularly given the COVID-19 pandemic. Time will be allotted to answer your unique questions. 

Thursday, April 30, 2020; 2:00pET – 2:30pET


Proposal

Funding Opportunities for Your Innovative Ideas

There are several funding opportunities that you can pursue to identify funding for your innovative ideas. One such program is the National Science Foundation (NSF) Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program places on emphasis on the education of technicians within two-year institutions. Proposals are due by October 1, 2020.

In writing your grant, make sure to review the most recent solicitation for the appropriate program track. A focus area of note is the Adaptation and Implementation program track which is “designed to increase the pace of innovation diffusion and encourages the use of innovative materials and practices of demonstrated course and programs.” 

Also, the NSF DUE (Division of Undergraduate Education) is particularly interested in how the COVID-19 is impacting on undergraduate education. This is quite fitting considering how many schools had to rapidly transition to completing courses on-line.

Finally, note that NSF’s Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) grants are now due on April 22, 2020 (and change from the original March 25, 2020 date).


If you want resources to help develop your ideas, check out these websites:

ATECentral logo

Supporting Advanced Technological Education

EvaluATE logo

The evaluate resource hub for the NSF ATE community

Mentor Connect Logo
NSF ATE leadership development and outreach initiative

Browse our most popular blog posts below:

Partnership Rubric: A tool for measuring industry relationships
 The Partnership Rubric was designed as a tool to quantify the involvement of outside partners in a given project or center by measuring the changes in the number of and level of involvement of those partnerships in targeted areas. 

Student Success: Are we clear about what this means? 
In this two-part blog on student success, we are first sharing this article in which guest blogger Dr. Terry Mills provides his perspective. In the second blog on this topic, Dr. Lana Rucks will provide a perspective of a researcher and program evaluator on this key issue.

Paying Students to Attend Tutoring Produces Interesting Findings 
Students who received the stipend for attending tutoring sessions had the lowest failure rates and earned the highest percentage of As. 


The Rucks Group, LLC is a research and evaluation firm that gathers, analyses, and interprets data to enable our clients to measure the impact of their work.