March 1984 // Volume 22 // Number 2 // Tools of the Trade // 2TOT1

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Reflective Appraisal


Sue Kruse
Iowa State University

Reflective Appraisal of Programs (RAP): An Approach to Studying Clientele- Perceived Results of Cooperative Extension Programs. Claude F. Bennett. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University, 1982. Packet of 4 publications: Introduction, 2 pp.; Rationale, 10 pp.; Guide, 19 pp.; Workbook, 13 pp. $2.50 per packet. Available from: Media Services, B- 10 Renssalaer Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853. Minimum order: $10.

Extension staff have been "rapping" about program evaluation for years, but now a new tool is available to guide that discussion. RAP is the acronym for the packet of materials labeled Reflective Appraisal of Programs. Introduced in late 1982, the materials focus on 1 method county Extension staff can use to obtain systematic evidence about results of programs.

The RAP technique uses standard interview questions that can be adapted to a variety of subject matters and methods. Telephone or personal interviews with participants are conducted with a minimum of 30 to 40 program participants. Bennett suggests that a staff member leading a RAP study needs to plan on 40-50 hours of work with the evaluation effort. The method encourages teamwork among staff and volunteers to plan and implement evaluations.

If that brief sketch of the RAP method interests you, the materials will supply the background and aids to help you plan and implement the evaluation. The guide takes you through nine steps in the evaluation process and provides the key concepts for understanding the RAP method. The workbook has 20 planning aids to be used in conjunction with the guide.

The RAP packet can be a self-study tool for an individual staff member who's really interested in learning about a specific evaluation technique. It's an excellent tool to use in a one-day workshop setting with a leader who's skilled in program evaluation. RAP doesn't pretend to expose participants to the spectrum of evaluation designs. It focuses on one approach, one that's feasible in terms of time and complexity for county staff to initiate.

Evaluation by the RAP method yields results that are relevant, interesting, and easily reported to a variety of audiences, including local decision makers.