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Using Participant Surveys to Assess the Need for Program Change

Jennifer Shack, August 10th, 2011

I just finished working with a restorative justice program in downstate Illinois to develop post-process evaluation forms. The program provides several services for juveniles who are primarily sent to them through police station adjustments. We worked together to develop forms for peer jury and victim-offender mediation.

What was exciting to me about our collaboration is that they were interested in gathering data for the express purpose of evaluating their own process of intake and orientation, as well as the juveniles’ reaction to the process. They wanted the juveniles to understand why they were asked to participate in a restorative justice process and to understand that more than just the victim was harmed by their actions. If the juveniles’ responses indicated they didn’t have a good understanding of these two issues, the staff believed they would need to change how they were approaching the juveniles at the outset.

After three weeks of testing, which demonstrated that the questions on the forms were well-formulated, the program is getting the information it needs in order to decide whether any changes need to be made. The juveniles’ responses also will provide feedback the program can use to obtain county and foundation funding in the future. It was a pleasure to work with staff who are dedicated to improving their program and see the role evaluation plays in the process.

Note: If you are interested in assessing your program, get in touch with me at jshack AT aboutrsi DOT org.


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