Communicating evaluation effectively

How to use the findings

Your evaluation findings can help to develop and strengthen courses, programmes, practices or policies. They may inform:

  • thinking
  • decisions
  • actions
  • recommendations and
  • the next evaluation.

For this to happen, you have to communicate the findings appropriately to the people who need to know about them.

Who wants to know what?​

  • You and your unit or course team will need the complete picture, answers to all the questions, so begin by communicating among yourselves, reflecting on the findings and considering the implications.
  • Participants in the evaluation should be told what was discovered in relation to their input and what will happen as a result.
  • Other stakeholders will have varying interests and priorities. Your initial evaluation questions should reflect their concerns. Some will want more detail than others.​ 

Communicating impact

The aim is to present the evaluation results clearly and convincingly, in a form appropriate to the intended audience. 

Show that the findings are trustworthy by describing your data collection and analysis methods. If you have used established data collection instruments, state this. Link recommendations with the evidence.

The framework and your initial evaluation questions will help you to identify areas of impact, i.e. the main messages you need to communicate. State these clearly. Ideally, provide an overview or summary in addition to more detailed findings.

Evidence and examples from the data will help to make the findings convincing. Graphics, and charts can communicate key points or an overview of the findings. Quotations can bring the findings to life. The language you use should be appropriate to the target audience, using everyday terms as far as possible.

If your analysis has identified change or progression, how will you communicate this? The change may be expressed in relation to an established scale or in relation to a baseline that was identified at the start of the evaluation.

Guiding understanding

If appropriate, help the audience to understand the significance of the results. You may know more about the wider picture than they do. If, for example, X is found to be the case for 70 per cent of your course participants, is that good? How does it compare with the national or international picture

You may need to explain why a particular result is significant or valuable.

Do not assume that your audience has a deep understanding of statistics and be careful how you communicate these. Numbers are quick to grasp and look persuasive but they do not provide the whole picture.

Which stakeholders are most likely to want numerical results? How can we make sure these are not misinterpreted? How can we make descriptive or qualitative findings equally quick to grasp and authoritative?

Ethical issues

Be honest about the limitations of the evaluation and any questions that are not fully answered. Be willing to share negative findings. Explain how you have analysed and interpreted results.

Reporting formats and media

  • formal project report 
  • internal publication: an institutional newsletter or blog for selected findings
  • selected findings may be required for monitoring purposes
  • presentation to relevant committees, course teams, programme leaders, steering groups, other stakeholders
  • community: It may be appropriate to share findings more widely via mailing lists, newsletter articles, conference or journal contributions – but be alert to ethical issues related to confidentiality and data protection.

For further information about evaluating teaching development in higher education, read about the literature review underpinning the toolkit development, and access the toolkit.