Evaluation: Carl Dunst Webinar


“Ultimately, a truly principle-driven organization must be willing to let its efforts be judged by the families it serves. Dunst underscores the importance of seeking out honest and credible feedback and having the humility to listen to it when it comes.”

Measuring and evaluating early childhood and family resource program effectiveness have been a focus of the research and practice of Dr Carl J. Dunst for more than 30 years. He and his colleagues have completed more than 50 studies investigating the relationships among program practices and different types of participant outcomes.

Out of this research has come the ECD Evaluation Project Parent Survey, a useful tool for evaluation, program planning and improvement purposes, based on more than 100 studies demonstrating empirical and functional relationships between the survey components. Dunst argues convincingly that programs that routinely collect Parent Survey information are in a better position to justify staff practices and parent benefits.


In the presentation Dr Dunst gave to the Early Childhood Development Project, sponsored by the BC Association of Family Resource Programs  and Success by 6, on March 1, 2013 he described and illustrated several ways of analyzing and interpreting Parent Survey results.  He focused on a) how parent survey findings can be used to target improvements in program practices; and b) how parent survey findings can be used to demonstrate program benefits for funders and other constituents.

Dunst defines the main focus of capacity-building family-centered practices as follows: “Capacity-building family-centered practices include methods and procedures used by practitioners to create participatory opportunities and experience to strengthen existing and promote the development of new parenting and family abilities in a manner that enhances and strengthens competence and self-efficacy beliefs.” These goals are achieved through relational and participatory practices.

There are three components to Dunst’s cycle of principle-driven evaluation and improvement for programs.

  1. Adopting family support principles as guiding program beliefs.
  2. Developing and identifying family-centered practice indicators for family support principles, and using them as standards against which everyday program practices are measured.
  3. Measuring and monitoring adherence to family-centered practices and the relationships between adherence and participant outcomes.

The value of the process is two-fold.  One the one hand, it assists in fine-tuning and building in continual improvement of programming delivery to participants.  On the other, it allows programs to report adherence information in ways that match funder expectations in terms of expected or desired outcomes, demonstrating patterns of results that parallel those found in research studies, and which illustrate effectively how adherence information was used for program modification and improvement.

To learn more about the ECD Parent Survey, click here.