How does the designer know if all of his or her careful planning and work have produced instructional materials that hit the mark?
The process of evaluation comes in two parts, formative and summative. Since formative evaluation occurs along the developmental path, it helps keep the project on track to a successful completion. Summative evaluation comes after the implementation of the materials and provides the data needed for decisionmakers to recommend how to use the materials.
Formative evaluation can take many forms, from focus groups to surveys, but all forms have the common goal of testing the materials as they are developed. It is a sort of on-the-fly indicator to revise and improve. Having learners, or users, provide honest feedback is the best way to ensure the design of the materials will be effective in helping real learning take place.
While formative evaluation is ongoing throughout the production stage, it should also continue in the implementation stage. The designer can provide guides to help the instructor with implementation, and then request feedback on the guides to improve them. Also a tie will exist between the designer and the teacher to help guide the intended use of the materials. Designing a formative evaluation plan needs to occur early in the design processes and should continue throughout.
Summative evaluation is used to gather, analyze, and present data about the effectiveness of the instructional materials. The results of this evaluation can be used to report to granting organizations, and to decisionmakers who will recommend the adoption of, or the continued use of, the materials. Evaluation is definitely the designer's friend in spite of the fact it is a tremendous amount of work.