Developing evaluation in physical activity projects project workers views and actions
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Developing evaluation in physical activity projects: project workers’ views and actions. Adam Lockwood Faculty of Health and Social Care The Open University [email protected] PhD research.

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Developing evaluation in physical activity projects: project workers’ views and actions

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Developing evaluation in physical activity projects: project workers’ views and actions

Adam Lockwood

Faculty of Health and Social Care

The Open University

[email protected]

PhD research

  • Focused on researching evaluation in chances4change projects that aim to encourage children to take part in more physical activity

  • Background

  • My literature review revealed that little is known about the evaluation of such projects (Stratton et al. 2005; Van Sluijs, 2007)

  • However it is clear that there may be multiple barriers affecting the execution of evaluation and its utilisation in community-based projects.

PhD research

  • Such barriers may reflect:

    • resource constraints (Evaluation tools)(Dugdill and Stratton, 2005)

    • but they may also relate to attitudes and values of project staff (e.g. Whether they see it as a worthwhile task)(Seppänen-Järvelä, 2004; Ruch Ross et al. 2008; Taut and Alkin, 2003)

Overview of the PhD project

  • Explore how evaluation is understood and handled in chances4change physical activity projects that work with children

    • Semi-structured interviews with project managers/leaders and workers and a Desk-based review of chances4change evaluation documentation

    • Using this research in triangulation with my literature review, I will design an evaluation toolkit

    • Pilot study: Test out the evaluation toolkit. Using non-participant observation and semi-structured interviews I will look at how the toolkit is used and look at the project workers views of evaluation have changed

Overview continued

  • After modifying the toolkit and research methods I hope to use the toolkit more widely in six chances4change projects and/or partnership organisations (Also using observations and interviews)

  • All of the findings from this research will feed into my PhD that examines the meanings, uses and potential of evaluation

Progress with the fieldwork

  • Desk-based review looking at evaluation documents from ten chances4change projects

  • Six semi-structured interviews

    • One with the Programme Manager and Research and Evaluation Manager for chances4change

    • Two project workers

    • Two project leads

Findings from the initial interviews and desk-based review

Barriers to evaluation

  • It is difficult to evaluate over the whole age range (5-16). Particularly difficult to evaluate 5-8yrs (Literacy issues)

  • It is a challenge for children to recall information on their levels of physical activity

  • Children struggle to understand the evaluation questions that are being asked or they cannot express themselves easily

  • Children feel that they are being graded during the evaluation. ‘Am I answering the question correctly?’

Barriers to evaluation continued

  • The type of projects: one off sessions vs long term projects (struggle to evaluate one off sessions)

  • Timing of the activities (not enough time to conduct the evaluation, pressures with project delivery)

  • Project workers think that evaluation involves number crunching (This often puts them off)

  • Some projects do not know how to analyse and interpret the evaluation data or the evaluation in itself doesn’t have a great deal of meaning

Findings from the initial interviews and desk-based review


  • There are different levels of experience amongst project workers (The toolkit should include evaluation training )

  • The training needs to be quick and simple so that the project workers don’t lose interest or become overwhelmed

  • ‘The evaluation needs to be given meaning’, explain why and how projects can evaluate their work

  • ‘The data takes hours to analyse’, the toolkit should include a section on how to analyse evaluation data

Findings from the initial interviews and desk-based review

Make the evaluation fun for children

  • Toolkit that is engaging- e.g. ‘If the toolkit includes a self report measure such as a questionnaire let the questions include smiley faces and pictures and make it colourful’

  • Integrate the evaluation activity into the typical project activities (e.g. Include a fun active game)

  • Questionnaires are very boring for children, include gadgets or something interactive like a game

  • Evaluation can be interactive (answer questions by throwing balls into buckets and by putting stickers on charts)

Findings from the initial interviews and desk-based review

Current approaches used in projects:

  • Questionnaires, focus groups, and physiological measurements (BMI, Multistage running tests)

    Ideas for the toolkit:

    • Visual Likert scales (Using stickers, throwing balls into buckets)

    • Paired interviews , focus groups, using photographs as visual prompts , big brother diary room

    • Postcard evaluations (fun questions on a small postcard increases take-up)

Ideas for toolkit continued

  • Draw and write methods

  • Move your feet (Children run to different sides of the room to answer the evaluation question)

  • Physiological measures (Body Mass Index, Waist to hip ratio, Incremental running tests)

  • Activity counts (Pedometers and Accelerometers)

What I’m doing now and looking forward

  • Ongoing design and development of the evaluation toolkit

  • Piloting the evaluation toolkit in one chances4change project

  • Make refinements to the evaluation toolkit and research methods

  • Start my main study fieldwork (testing the toolkit out in 6 chances4change projects and/or partnership organisations)


  • Dugdill, L. and Stratton, G. (2007) Evaluating sport and physical activity interventions: A guide for practitioners. University of Salford, UK.


  • Ruch-Ross, Keller, D., Miller, N., Basseitz, J. and Melinkovich, P. (2008). Evaluation of community-based health projects: The healthy tomorrows experience. Paediatrics, 122(3), 564-572

  • Seppänen-Järvelä, R. (2004). The meaning assigned to evaluation by project staff. Evaluation. 10(4); 430–39

  • Stratton, G., Ridgers, N.D., Gobbii, R. and Tocque, K. (2005). Physical activity exercise, sport and health: Regional mapping for the north-west.

  • Taut, S.M., and Alkin, M.C. (2003). Program Staff Perceptions of Barriers to Evaluation Implementation. American Journal of Evaluation. 24; 213

  • Van Sluijs, E.M.F., McMinn, A.M., and Griffin, S.J. (2007). Effectiveness of interventions to promote physical activity in children and adolescents: systematic review of controlled Trials. British Medical Journal.

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