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Evaluating Aurora’s Indigenous education programs

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The Aurora Education Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation that supports Indigenous students to realise their full academic potential. It sets out to change perceptions of Indigenous students and transform life outcomes through the programs it runs from high school to postgraduate education.

In particular, the programs provide cultural and academic support to increase the number of Indigenous students transitioning from school to university and from graduate to postgraduate study at leading universities, including Cambridge, Harvard and Oxford.

Aurora wanted to evaluate performance of programs

Aurora was looking for longitudinal evidence that would document the individual and collective effectiveness of its programs, the program factors that optimise performance and the potential barriers to efficient program delivery. Aurora engaged Nous to evaluate its four education programs – the High School Program, the Indigenous Scholarship Portal, the Aurora Study Tour and International Scholarships.

The evaluation was both a formative and summative methodology considering long-term impact as well as the opportunities to make changes to the daily running of the programs. Our work with Aurora was supported by the Nous Community Partnership Scheme.

Framework underpins measures of success

To measure the effectiveness and impact of the programs, we developed a monitoring and evaluation framework, including data collection and analysis tools such as surveys and a dashboard. To do this we:

  • identified suitable data sets (including those from national and state governments, and independent organisations) and prepared a baseline against which we could assess progress
  • collected extensive data and engaged with stakeholders, including program participants and employees, using culturally appropriate facilitation techniques across three years of evaluation.

We also prepared a cost-benefit analysis to inform potential expansion of a pilot program for high school students, assessing the program against a base case while considering a new place-based model and tracking participant outcomes.

Decisions are informed by quality evaluation

Aurora has regarded our work as invaluable, giving it evidence about the effectiveness of its programs, supporting it to identify what factors led to success or created barriers in programs, and offering insights that have shaped the future of each program. We worked alongside Aurora to build its capability, including training on best practice monitoring and evaluation. Aurora now uses the Monitoring and Evaluation Framework to inform program implementation. Aurora has published the Nous evaluation reports on its website.

As part of our Reconciliation Action Plan, we also have a formal partnership with Aurora, including sponsoring Study Tour scholars. Several Nous employees are alumni from Aurora programs.

What you can learn from Aurora Education Foundation

Evaluation is essential to determining the effectiveness of any not-for-profit initiative, including in education.

A framework gives structure to monitoring and evaluation efforts. It supports an organisation’s effort to sustain monitoring and reporting, and plays a role in continuous improvement.

Stakeholder engagement needs to respect the distinctive needs of different groups and to understand the varied measures of success that each stakeholder attributes to the program.