Michigan State University (MSU) is leading the evaluation efforts for CIRTL AGEP. The MSU team evaluates the Network Improvement Community (NIC) at four levels: (1) the key components and attributes of successful NIC operations, (2) the impact of NIC participation on member campuses and individuals, (3) the nature and extent that interventions are developed, implemented, tested, and refined, and (4) the process by which interventions are disseminated across the CIRTL Network. Several sources of data collection are used in the form of surveys, observations, and interviews from participants of the 10-member postsecondary consortium. In addition, meeting agendas, driver diagrams, and other community resources are tracked and included in this work. The outputs from the evaluation team are formative, so that the NIC can improve its processes, and summative, which enables the evaluation team to contribute to the research knowledge on effective practices of NICs.
To frame NIC operations and impact the evaluation team relies on pre-established NIC literature (Bryk et al., 2011) as well as related research on learning communities (e.g., Cox, 2004; Richlin & Essington, 2004; Smith, MacGregor, Matthews, & Gabelnick, 2004), communities of practice (e.g., Brown & Duguid, 1991; Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 2010, 2000, 1998; Wenger, MerDermott, & Snyder, 2002), and interorganizational networks (e.g., Ahuja, 2000; Ahuja, Soda, and Zaheer, 2012; Barringer & Harrison, 2000; Dyer & Nobeoka, 2000; Hardy, Phillips, & Lawrence, 2003; Larsson, Bengtsson, Henriksson, & Sparks, 1998). More specifically, the evaluation team considers key variables such as the nature of interactions between NIC members, knowledge storage and exchange, the nature of trust and collegiality, NIC leadership, operational logistics, what individuals gain from NIC membership, what institutions gain from NIC participation, how NIC activities are translated at the campus level, and institutional attributes that help or hinder impact. In terms of the NIC intervention activities at each campus, the evaluation team examines each phase of the plan-do-study-act cycle, as well the dissemination of the refined model interventions across the CIRTL Network.