Step 5. Collect Information and Interpret Findings
When the program is over or at a logical evaluation point, like the end of the school year, it is time to examine both whether activities were carried out as intended and whether the results met expectations. This is when data collected in Step 1 is collected again in the same manner as originally collected. Once data are collected, the results are interpreted.
The Interpretation Process
Interpreting results, also called data analysis, does not have to be hard or complex. The process for analysis mainly depends on whether the data is words (like quotes from interviews) or numbers (like responses to survey questions). Some forms of data require little to no analysis, such as direct quotes from an interview with a traffic engineer before and after a traffic improvement.
A brief summary of how to analyze results is included here. More complex analyses may require working with an evaluation specialist.
Interpreting Number-Based Information
The basic steps include:
- Entering the data into Microsoft Excel, Access, Epi Info or other programs.
- Checking for data entry errors. A common method is to enter all or some of the data twice to see if it matches and fix any errors detected.
- Tabulating the data (e.g., calculate the number of participants or percentage of participants who walked to school every day or at least one day per week).
- Sorting data by sub-groups (like grade or gender).
- Making comparisons with program objectives, with a comparison site (if one has been identified), or with other Safe Routes to School programs.
Adapted from the CDC Physical Activity Evaluation Handbook.
Interpreting Word-Based Information
Basic analysis of word-based information (respondents' verbal answers in interviews, focus groups, or written commentary on surveys) includes:
- Reading through all the data.
- Organizing comments into similar categories (e.g., concerns, suggestions, strengths, weaknesses, similar experiences, recommendations, etc.).
- Labeling the categories or themes.
- Attempting to identify patterns in the themes. For example, parents who walked a particular route with their child to school all felt the route was safe.
Adapted from the Basic Guide to Program Evaluation.
Once the analysis is complete, conclusions can be drawn and outcomes summarized. Below are a few examples of possible findings.
Program Activity: Using a Frequent Walker Punch Card to encourage students to walk or bicycle to school.
- Finding A: More students walking and bicycling and parents’ surveys show more positive attitudes toward the benefits and feasibility of these travel modes.
- Finding B: More children are not walking or bicycling and parent surveys reveal some of the reasons.
Program Activity: Conducting an education and enforcement campaign to decrease speeding in school zones.
- Finding A: Speeds reduced, parents aware of campaign and feel safer.
- Finding B: Speeds reduced, parents unaware of campaign and do not feel safer.
- Finding C: Speeds not reduced, parents unaware of campaign and do not feel safer. Each of these findings would lead to different conclusions and recommendations which will be discussed in the next step.
Each of these findings would lead to different conclusions and recommendations which will be discussed in the next step.
In this example, the school was able to show an increase in students walking to school and identified some strategies that could improve the program.
Safe Routes to School Program Evaluation Plan
School: High Hopes Elementary School
5. Collect Information and Interpret Findings
- Students walking to school increased from 50 to 75, a 50 percent increase
- 50% increase in helmet usage among students bicycling to school
- Four walking school buses started; 5th bus to start next fall
- Parent surveys show awareness of speed campaign but not more willing to let children walk
- Nearly all (90%) of parents use new drop-off site
- Continue walking school bus program
- Continue Walk and Wheel to School day
- Secure source for free bicycle helmets
- Continue speed enforcement program with more effort to inform parents at the start of school next year