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National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR)

Types of Evaluation at NIDILRR: Formative Review

Project Officers are charged with the responsibility of monitoring the progress of a grantee over the course of several years. Ongoing email and phone correspondence between grantee and Project Officer are great tools that help grantees stay on course to deliver their promised results. During the course of their monitoring efforts, however, Project Officers may realize that a grantee could benefit from the input of two or three friendly expert coaches who are familiar with what the grantee is trying to do. These circumstances are ideal for Formative Review.

The entire formative review process can be divided into Pre-, During, and Post-Formative Review stages. For more information on the activities and results of each of these stages, click on a link below.

Pre-Formative Review

The Formative Review Coordinator generates a list of eligible grantees that started within the last 12-18 months grouped by Project Officer. Project Officers then review documents (e.g. the grant application, any notes, Annual Performance Reports), email and phone correspondence of the grantees on the list. They then complete a Formative Review Screening Form for only the grantees they believe could benefit from Formative Review. Senior management approves the master list.

Once approval from senior NIDILRR management is approved, the Formative Review Coordinator works with the Project Officer and Formative Review Contractor to: (1) notify the grantees and provide them with preparation instructions; (2) establish dates, teleconference phone lines, and room location; (3) recruit, retain and orient 2 or 3 subject-matter expert reviewers.

The selected grantees prepare powerpoint presentations that comply with the preparation instructions and provide web addresses where reviewers and NIDILRR can download and review them before the facilitated formative review teleconference.

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During Formative Review

During the day of the 2.5 hour Formative Review teleconference facilitated by the Formative Review Coordinator, the grantee walks the expert reviewers and Project Officer through their presentation; the reviewers and Project Officer ask questions and engage in a dialogue with the grantee.

The grantee can also ask for help or technical assistance in whatever areas they need during this dialogue. The issues raised and discussed during the dialogue are captured by the Formative Review Contractor for later inclusion into a Formative Review Report. The grantee is dismissed and the expert reviewers are given instructions for what they are expected to do during the Post Formative Review stage.

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Post-Formative Review

In this phase, the expert reviewers are asked to jointly generate and compile their observations, implementable recommendations, or helpful suggestions via email. The master list is then emailed to the Formative Review Coordinator and Project Officer for review.

Once approved, the master list is then incorporated into the Formative Review Report template by the Formative Review Contractor. The completed Formative Review Report is then sent to the Formative Review Coordinator and Project Officer for review and approval.

The report is then modified in accordance with the feedback provided by NIDILRR personnel.

The Formative Review Contractor emails the grantee the approved Formative Review Report and carbon copies the Project Officer and the Formative Review Contractor. The Project Officer then uploads the Formative Review Report into the the grantee's electronic TRIM folder so it becomes part of the official grantee record.

Through various email and phone correspondence, the Project Officer and grantee work together to implement whatever feasible recommendations or suggestions they can. The implementation status of these recommendations is documented in their subsequent online Annual Performance Report.

Questions about the Formative Review?
Email William Shutz at

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Last Modified: 1/27/2017