Assessing the effectiveness of government policy

: a case study evaluation of the pilot phase of Program DARE in the Northern Territory of Australia

  • Susan Mary Bannister

    Student thesis: Masters by Research - CDU

    Abstract

    This study is concerned with the evaluation of a drug education program in selected schools in the Northern Territory of Australia and in particular assesses the impact of the DARE1 pilot program on its target population. Further, it responds to the need for increased evaluation practice, more particularly in the field of drug education evaluation where efforts to document the efficacy or otherwise of drug prevention programs have been generally insufficient to guide policy and program development.

    The study seeks to examine the role of government policy in relation to the implementation of the program, and sets out to review the processes involved in translating the policy into a set of procedures. In doing so, the study attempts to assess whether an evaluation of the pilot program's implementation can be used to guide future government policy. The overall approach is summarised thus:

    1. Evaluate the formulation and implementation of government policy in relation to reducing known and anticipated drug abuse behaviour
    2. Study the processes involved in translating the POLICY into a set of PROCEDURES
    3. Assess the PROCESS and IMPACT of the program on the targetpopulation
    4. Assess whether the evaluation of the program's implementation can be used to guide future government policy

    Two aspects of the study are significant. Firstly it is the first formal evaluation of Program DARE in the Australian context, and secondly the research design - that of a "mixed methodology" - is itself innovatory in the context in which it is used. In developing a theoretical framework for this research study, reference was made to a number of the more commonly used and influential evaluation models, as well as a variety of approaches and techniques. These various techniques served to strengthen and augment the case study focus of the Program DARE evaluation research study and in turn facilitated the collection of data, which when analysed and synthesised, provided firm policy and implementation bases for recommendations concerning the future conduct of the program.

    The study describes a three stage process aimed at answering the three primary research questions which define the focus of the investigation.These are namely:
    1. What is the effectiveness of the pilot program at the various levels?
    2. Do the results of the pilot phase of the NT DARE program firstly, demonstrate program effectiveness; and secondly, in any way replicate those of the Los Angeles (parent) program?
    3. Are the internal evaluation procedures considered appropriate when compared with selected evaluation standards?

    Given that the research study achieved what it set out to, that is, to answer the three questions posed above, it can be claimed that the study was successful in this regard. The research design allowed for both formative and summative evaluation to take place: formative in its primary function of gathering information while the program was being designed, pilot-tested and revised, as well as summative which allowed for more comprehensive analysis of the final and higher level goals of the program.

    The research was conducted over an eighteen month period andemployed a range of data collection techniques and procedures, included studying urban as well as rural groups, government as well as non-government groups, primary as well as a small random sample of secondary students who had been involved in DARE while in primary school. Finally, the study utilized a variety of data sources in an attempt to view the program as a whole, and in doing so encompassed differing and sometimes conflicting opinions of the likely efficacy of the processes involved in the implementation of Program DARE.
    Date of AwardNov 1991
    Original languageEnglish

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