Takeaways from GHWY commissioned evaluation training 

What is evaluation? It is not a question that I often ask myself in my role at Go Higher West Yorkshire (GHWY). While I work on collaborative outputs, I have always sought input from our Data Evaluation and Impact (DEI) team for evaluation work. But if we empower staff like myself to understand the basics of evaluation, it will free up the DEI team to work on evaluation and/or research outputs that involves their specific skills and expertise. 

This was the rationale for the DEI team to commission YMCA George Williams College to deliver evaluation training to our staff and stakeholders, including West Yorkshire Combined Authority. YMCA George Williams College is a unique organisation in that it specialises in evidence, quality, learning and improvement with a focus on the youth sector.   

Although I do not directly work with young people, I support staff from our partners to better support young people in Higher Education (HE). I feel a key part is evaluating the collaborative outputs that we have at GHWY. This training built on a session I attended in 2023 at the Transforming Access and Student Outcomes conference to learn about types of evaluation and Theory of Change (ToC).  

The training offered by YMCA George Williams College was delivered over two days. The first session focused on the different lenses and how that might influence perception. For example, the autobiographical lens where people bring their lived experience to the role. It was good to reflect on how we are viewed by our colleagues, young people, and stakeholders. This reflection helped participants to think about whether there are any gaps in our service, which led onto ToC.  

GHWY has developed ToC into its own Journey of Change (JoC), but the principles remain the same. The key elements are context (issue you are trying to address); inputs (resources); activities (what we deliver); outputs (how we measure quality of activities); the mechanisms of chance (process of how people engage with and benefit from activities); outcomes (short- and long-term effects); and the aims or impact that we want to see as a result.  

The second day of training focused specifically on quantitative and qualitative data. We started to think about the types of questions we could ask to get the information we need. This could include exploratory questions (how do young people find out about GHWY?) to experiential questions (how do stakeholders feel about the support we offer them)? I found it helpful to think about the clarity of terms we are using. For instance, when people talk about graduate outcomes as benefits of HE, what do we mean by graduate outcomes? 

In terms of what I will takeaway, it will be to be the importance of clearly defining terms that are being used so that everyone has the same understanding of them. I also found it helpful to learn about the pros and cons of quantitative vs qualitative, as both have their merits and can together paint us a better picture. 


Tahera Mayat, GHWY Collaborative Outreach Officer