The Great Lakes Bowl is an annual regional competition of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB), an academic competition that tests high school students’ knowledge of Great Lakes and marine science. A formative evaluation was conducted at the 2009 Great Lakes Bowl with the goal of improving recruitment and retention of teams to the competition. Evaluation questions were:
- What motivates teachers to participate in NOSB?
- What factors are important for continued participation in NOSB?
- What factors would prevent teams from returning to NOSB?
- What do NOSB teachers think are effective ways of advertising NOSB?
- What can be the role of current NOSB teachers in recruiting new teams?
The program coordinator, a novice evaluator, carried out the evaluation, utilizing MEERA’s step-by-step evaluation guide, and identified the website as an excellent tool to help (1) stay on track, (2) choose realistic evaluation goals, and (3) grasp the evaluation’s scope. The “Clarifying Program Logic” and “Analyzing Data” sections were especially helpful. Data was collected through a focus group immediately prior to the Great Lakes Bowl, and through surveys completed by team coaches (high school teachers) after returning home. Results were used to improve the program in the short-term. Recruitment techniques were modified for the next competition, and new evaluation ideas are being considered. However, due to resource limitations long-term recommendations may not be considered.