The major distinguishing characteristic of evaluation, unlike monitoring, is that it is only conducted periodically at particular stages of the project. As such, there are five main types of evaluation. The different evaluation types vary mainly depending on the stage of the project. While classification could be based on different criteria such as the methodology adopted, here we look at the classification based on the time. These types of evaluation are formative evaluation, mid-term evaluation, summative evaluation, ex-post evaluation and meta- evaluation.
1. Formative evaluation: This type of evaluation, also referred to as a baseline survey, is carried out before an actual project is implemented. The formative evaluation is conducted mainly to review the existing status in the targeted population, which in turn informs project focus. The formative evaluation is an important type of evaluation as it is not only the starting point of a project, but also forms the basis for evaluation. Additionally, the tools and methodologies that are used at the formative evaluation are usually the ones that are carried on to other stages of evaluation such as the mid-term and summative evaluation.
2. Mid-term evaluation: This is also commonly referred to as the mid-term reviews. Just like the name suggests, the mid-term reviews are conducted mid-project. The mid-term reviews are important for the purposes of establishing whether a project is heading towards the set goals and objectives, thereafter informing management and control decisions by the project management. It is important in building organizational confidence in the project implementation strategies, or in the case where indicators are not pointing towards success, acting as a call to the change of implementation strategies. It is however important to note that in the case where a project has a long life cycle, it might be important to conduct periodic evaluations before the actual mid-term evaluation, although this might depend on management goodwill and availability of funds.
3. Summative evaluation: This evaluation type is also known as the end-term evaluation or the project completion evaluation. It is intended to be carried out immediately at project conclusion. Summative evaluation is carried out to establish project outputs and immediate outcomes, with results of the evaluation compared to the results at baseline. This evaluation generally informs stakeholders on the project success and is important for documenting success stories and lessons learnt. This evaluation is also usually carried out by the project team.
4. Ex-post evaluation: This type of evaluation is most often confused to be synonymous with the summative evaluation, while in actual sense it is not. This type of evaluation is also called the post- implementation evaluation. While an ex-post evaluation is also carried out after project closure, the difference between the ex-post and summative evaluation is that it is more intense, is conducted by external evaluators for the purposes of independent assessment and takes much longer time duration before being conducted after project completion. This is not only because external evaluators need to be outsourced, but also because it is intended to capture the impacts of the project. It is usually the final evaluation associated with a project.
5. Meta-evaluation: Meta-evaluation is a type of evaluation that is based on several different sources of information. In other words, meta-evaluation is based on several evaluations. While in some cases organizations may hire several evaluation teams in order to conduct a meta-evaluation, while in other cases, different evaluations conducted by different institutions on similar initiatives can be considered for meta-evaluation. In any case, a systematic analysis of the assembled evaluations is done in order to establish confidence or otherwise in the findings of the evaluation process.