It is vital to monitor and evaluate your humane education program. Monitoring and evaluation - commonly known as ‘M&E’ – is a critical part of the program management and implementation cycle. It allows for adaptive management and improvement through the life of the program to support delivery of program goals and objectives. It also supports reporting and communication of the program outputs and outcomes. This is important for advocacy with educators (the education department and schools/teachers), to promote your organization and its work, and for feedback to funders.
M&E helps us to:
Monitoring is a process that tracks the implementation of activities. It checks that we are implementing activities according to our action plan.
Evaluation assesses the results of our project at one point in time (in short-scale projects, this would be on completion – but in longer-scale projects, it could be done periodically).
Historically, the animal protection movement has not been effective at evaluating its part in humane education programs. Whilst there is much anecdotal evidence of the successes and benefits of humane education – not only in terms of improved empathy and compassion, but also in terms of classroom behavior and performance – there is very little rigorous analysis to support this. And this is what is needed to ensure that humane education is taken seriously, and made an integral part of the schools’ curriculum.
The key to designing an effective M&E systems is to work out what you want to achieve in your program (and your program priorities) and:
An effective action plan should be the basis of all M&E work.
As the National Association for Humane and Environmental Education states:
“As humane educators we should be concerned not only with our subject matter but also with ensuring that what we do has its desired effect: a positive influence on children's knowledge of, attitudes about, and behavior toward animals.”
The monitoring system for your programs would include aspects such as:
Monitoring also has an important role to play after humane education has been included in the curriculum (either in its own right, or embedded in another relevant subject area). This is where animal protection organizations can monitor to ensure that it is actually being delivered as agreed.
In many countries, subjects are included in the curriculum and simply not delivered. So monitoring – and follow-up advocacy - is essential for ensuring that humane education is actually delivered. In a similar vein, M&E can continue to document the benefits of humane education, so these can be used in advocacy for more coverage and/or to counter any attempts at subsequently dropping humane education – which remains a threat given packed schools curriculums. Advocacy should remain a vital part of the program to ensure that humane education is rolled out and effectively delivered.
World Animal Protection has some useful information on monitoring and evaluation of animal welfare education programs on its Animal Mosaic site, see ‘How can I tell if it’s working?’
This suggests a few outcomes, but you will probably want to add to these to take account of your own priorities – especially if you are delivering humane education, as opposed to just animal welfare education. In addition, we recommend also factoring in any other desired effects (in terms of learners’ attitudes and/or behavior). This could include aspects of importance to educators and the education department such as: classroom behavior, relationships with other learners and educators, attitudes to learning, critical thinking skills, learning performance etc. Also, where humane education has been weaved into other existing curriculum subjects, then its benefit to these subjects will also need to be factored in (to prove that it has been worthwhile in terms of delivering the curriculum area in question).
World Animal Protection stresses the importance of having a pre-test, and then a corresponding test after the program in order to evaluate its impact – and also of carrying out a control test (to ensure that any changes were actually as a result of the program, and not of any other environmental factors outside of this which affected the learners).
Questionnaires are often used to assess learners’ attitudes before and after the program. If well designed, these can indicate changes in attitude due to the program. But, as World Animal Protection stresses, attitudes can change over time, so need to be re-tested at a later stage to make sure that any changes are maintained.
It is important to remember that such tests can be used for attitudes, but are less successful for evaluating behavioral change – which is best evaluated by peer and/or teacher observation.
Another important point is the need to secure appropriate, permission from the parents of the children being assessed. It is also good practice to ensure that learners’ identities are kept confidential.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has some evaluation instruments on the section of its website for parents and educators.
These were developed for the HSUS by the Western Institute for Research and Evaluation, and can be used in assessing the effectiveness of humane education programs or materials at the kindergarten through sixth-grade levels. Instructions for administering and scoring the tests are included. These assess changes in humane values, so may need to be extended to take account of other program objectives. They may also need to be adapted to suit different cultures.
This web resources also includes bibliographies of research carried out on humane education programs.
Which brings us to a final point: This is the advantages of incorporating academic research into your humane education programs. This not only brings additional academic rigor, but also has the potential to add credence to your claims about the benefits of humane education, and spreads the debate about the importance of humane education into academic circles and beyond.