August 2000 // Volume 38 // Number 4 // Tools of the Trade // 4TOT3

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Tools for Evaluating Written and Audiovisual Nutrition Education Materials

An important step in delivering effective Extension nutrition education programs is to evaluate educational materials for specific target audiences. This article describes two new resources available to help Extension professionals use consistent criteria and a systematic process for selecting effective written and audiovisual materials.

Connie Betterley
EFNEP Coordinator
Iowa State University Extension
Ames, Iowa
Internet address:

Brenda Dobson
WIC Nutrition Services Coordinator
Iowa Department of Public Health
Des Moines, Iowa

An important step in delivering effective Extension nutrition education programs is to evaluate both written and audiovisual materials in light of the needs of the specific target audience. Recent research indicates that nutrition education materials are often reviewed before use (Mercer, 1998; Tagtow, 2000).

However, the same research indicates that the reviewer may not use a systematic process that considers all factors related to reading, comprehension, content, design, and technical quality. Without a systematic process, inappropriate materials may be selected, resulting in ineffective nutrition education and wasted resources.

Our Problem

Nutrition educators with Iowa State University Extension and the Iowa Department of Public Health needed to evaluate a wide variety of printed and audiovisual nutrition education materials for target audiences ranging from health professionals to individuals with limited reading skills. Several evaluation tools were reviewed to determine if suitable assessment criteria already existed. However, while all of the tools had some useful features, none of the existing tools met our needs.

We wanted a tool that:

  • provided a good evaluation without being overly time-consuming to use.
  • was easy-to-use and self-explanatory.
  • didn't use a single rating to determine whether an educational piece would be "approved" or "not approved." We felt it was important to allow for individual judgments as to whether a particular piece would meet local needs.
  • evaluated more than just readability or content and considered all factors that contribute to an effective publication or audiovisual presentation.

Our Solution

Iowa State University Extension and the Iowa Department of Public Health jointly developed two guides and evaluation forms to help Extension nutrition educators, public health nutritionists, and others select educational materials that best meet the needs of target audiences. The Guide to Evaluating Written Nutrition Education Materials and the Guide to Evaluating Audiovisual Nutrition Education Materials each describe a four-step process to help educators:

  • assess the needs of a target audience,
  • evaluate the material using the review forms,
  • pretest the materials with the target audience, and
  • use the materials effectively.

The guides describe why each step is important for successful nutrition education activities.

The Written Nutrition Education Materials Review Form and the Audiovisual Nutrition Education Materials Review Form are printed in a 4-page, easy-to-read format that allows room for reviewer's notes. Figure 1 summarizes the criteria under each heading on the forms. The criteria are general in nature and apply to all nutrition topics and audiences. However, an educator can add criteria to the forms that are specific to a particular issue (such as breastfeeding) or target audience (such as low literacy).

These guides and evaluation forms will provide Extension educators and others with an easy-to-use, systematic process for evaluating the appropriateness of written and audiovisual nutrition education materials for a variety of target audiences.

Figure 1.

Criteria on the Review Forms

A. Source information

For written materials: Title; subject matter; type of publication; length; date of publication; author or producer; publisher and address, phone, and e-mail; single and bulk cost; languages available; and camera-ready copy available.

For audiovisual materials: Same reference information as for written materials, plus the available formats and the program's length or running time.

B. Reading level and comprehension criteria

For written materials: Reading level and method of calculation; clear purpose; word usage; sentence structure; paragraph structure; overall organization; and tone.

For audiovisual materials: Purpose; language; visuals; pacing; presentation style; overall organization; tone; and length.

C. Content criteria

For written materials: Accuracy and credibility; appropriateness; usefulness; and appropriateness of recipes, if included.

For audiovisual materials: Same, except reference to use of food rather than recipes.

D. Design and quality criteria

For written materials: Paper quality; use of color; readability of type size and style; illustrations, charts, graphs, and tables; and organization of layout.

For audiovisual materials: Auditory and visual quality; flow; and continuity. Also includes evaluation of the instructional guide, if available.

E. Review summary

For both: Reviewer's name; date of review; reviewer's assessment of target audience; appropriateness for reviewer's target audience.


Mercer, K. C. (1998). An examination of three perspectives on nutrition education materials: The curriculum expert, the dietitian, and the patient. University of Georgia.

Tagtow, A. (2000, May-June). The extent to which dietitians evaluate nutrition education materials. Journal of Nutrition Education.