How Does the Program Work? (Creating the Logic Model) You have completed the most important part of program design and evaluation; you have defined your program, documenting why your program should work. Next is the process of refining the program design and evaluation: How does the program work? Using the program’s theory and underlying assumptions as the foundation, you will begin to create a model that depicts your program’s inner workings.
What Is Logic Modeling?
A logic model lays out your program’s theory by explaining how you believe your program works. Your logic model will set short-term and intermediate objectives that you can check throughout the evaluation to determine the extent to which your program is working as envisioned. Your logic model is the cornerstone of your program and its evaluation, and you should continually use it to check progress throughout the program, to help you discover problems with your program, and to make necessary corrections and improvements while your program is in operation.
Logic modeling is a process, and the model created through the process will be the foundation of your program and its evaluation.
Logic modeling is a process, not simply an end result. While you will create a logic model through the process—a model that will be a critical component of your program’s operation and evaluation—the power is in the process. The process of logic modeling has many uses, from designing a new project to fostering shared ownership of a plan to teaching others how a program is intended to work. We will touch on those uses that are important to evaluation. Additional resources are provided in the section of Appendix C if you would like to learn more.
Putting a new idea into practice is change, and change takes time. Logic modeling can facilitate change by building a shared vision and ownership among stakeholders from the outset, but only if creating the logic model is a shared process. This does not mean that you need to include every stakeholder in every phase of your logic modeling. The initial creation of your logic model works best if done by a small group. However, once this group creates a draft, including others in the process will likely improve your model and the program’s subsequent implementation.
Including teachers in the logic modeling process can help to ensure that teachers are working toward a common goal and that all teachers understand and support what the program is trying to accomplish. Including parents can help to foster a culture in which parents understand and embrace what the teachers are trying to accomplish with their children, so parents can, in turn, support these efforts at home. Including students invites them to be active participants in the program planning and understanding process. Further, including administrators and school board members is critical to creating a shared understanding and mutual support of the program and its goals. Finally, the inclusion of stakeholders is not a one-time effort to garner support but rather an ongoing partnership to improve your program’s design and operation.
A logic model explains how you expect a program’s strategies and activities to result in the program’s stated goals and objectives.
The logic modeling process should include the person or people who will have primary responsibility for the program, as well as those who are critical to its success. Because the logic model you are creating will be used for evaluation purposes, your model will not simply describe your program or project, but it will also provide indicators that you will use to measure your program’s success throughout its operation. For this reason, it would be helpful to ask someone with evaluation expertise to be part of your logic modeling group. Once you have your logic modeling team assembled, the following paragraphs will step you through the process of creating your model.
How Do I Create a Logic Model?
At the heart of your logic model are the linkages between what you do as part of your program and what you hope to accomplish with the program. The linkages explain how your program works, and they include your program’s short-term and intermediate objectives. Short-term
and intermediate objectives are critical to improving the implementation of your program, as well as to establishing the association, supported by data, that your program’s activities are theoretically related to your program’s goals. Without short-term and intermediate indicators that reflect the program’s underlying theory, your evaluation would be a black box with inputs (strategies and activities) and outputs (goals and objectives). The logic model is a depiction of the inside of the box, allowing you to monitor your program’s operation and enabling you to make assertions about the success of the strategies that are part of your program.
If your program theory is well defined, you may find that creating the logic model is a breeze. If your program theory still needs more explanation of how your program should work, the process of creating your logic model will aid you in further refining it. Logic modeling is an opportunity to really think through the assumptions you laid out in your program’s theory, to
consider again what resources and supports you will need to implement your program effectively, and to lay out what you plan to achieve at various stages during your program’s operation.
These are the primary components of a logic model:
1. Long-term objectives or outcome goals
2. Program strategies and activities
3. Early (short-term) objectives
4. Intermediate objectives
5. Contextual conditions
Your logic model will be a living model, in that the theory underlying your model and the indicators informing your model are not static but should be changed as your understanding changes. You will start
with your program theory, and your logic model will represent this theory. However, as information is obtained through the program’s implementation and evaluation, you will need to revise and improve the model so that it is always an accurate representation of your program. The logic model is your road map and should reflect your initial understanding of the program, as well as the knowledge you learn during your program’s operation.
These are the primary components of a logic model, in order of development:
1. Defining long-term objectives/outcome goals.
2. Delineating program strategies and activities.
3. Detailing early (short-term) objectives.
4. Outlining intermediate objectives.
5. Listing necessary contextual conditions or resources (context).
While you may decide to depict your logic model using various shapes, in this guide:
Strategies and activities will be denoted by rounded rectangles.
Early (short-term) and intermediate objectives will be denoted by rectangles.
Long-term goals will be represented by elongated ovals.
Remember that there is no magic to the shapes. You should use whatever shapes make the most sense to you! The substance is in the connections between your shapes, as these connections represent your program’s theory.
Start by stating your long-term goals on the right-hand side of your logic model. Move to the left and give your intermediate and early or short-term objectives, followed by your strategies and activities on the left-hand side. Including contextual conditions and resources on your model is a helpful reminder of what needs to be in place for your program to operate. If you decide to add contextual conditions or resources to your model, you can list them on the far left-hand side of your model (before your strategies and activities).
The headings of your model might look like those in Figure 2.
Figure 2: Possible Logic Model Headings
Once you have listed your contextual conditions and necessary resources, strategies and activities, short-term and intermediate objectives, and long-term goals, it is time to translate your program’s theory (set of assumptions) into your logic model. Think carefully about what needs to occur in the short term, intermediate, and long term. Map out your assumptions, carrying each strategy through to a long-term goal. Some strategies may share short-term and intermediate objectives, and some objectives may branch out to one or more other objectives. Check to be sure that all strategies ultimately reach a goal and that no short-term or intermediate objectives are dead-ends (meaning that they do not carry through to a long-term goal). Every piece of your model is put into place to achieve your long-term goals. As mentioned earlier, it is your road map, keeping you on track until you reach your destination. Seeing a fully completed logic model may be helpful at this point. Please refer to Figure 3: READ Logic Model
in Appendix A (and reproduced on page 24), and Figure 5: NowPLAN-T Logic Model in Appendix B for examples.
A logic model can be used to explain your program and its evaluation to others, as well as to track your program’s progress.
Keep in mind that creating your logic model offers another opportunity for you to examine whether important activities are missing. Does it make sense
that the program strategies and activities would result in your short-term and intermediate objectives and long-term goals for the program? Are additional strategies needed? Are some strategies more important than others? If so, note this in your program definition and theory. In addition, the logic modeling process can help you to refine your program’s theory. As you think through the assumptions that link strategies and activities to goals, you may decide that the logic model needs more work and may want to include additional or different objectives. It is important to use the logic modeling process to reaffirm or refine your program’s theory, as the model will be the basis of your program’s design and evaluation. Your logic model will have many uses, including documenting your program, tracking your program’s progress, and communicating your program’s status and findings. As mentioned previously, your model can
also be used to foster a mutual understanding among your stakeholders of what your program looks like, as well as what you intend for the program to accomplish.