This research aimed to generate new theories on how to evaluate the outcomes
and societal impacts of disaster education programs for children. In the last decade,
disaster education programs for children have been promoted as an innovative approach
to disaster risk reduction, based on several theories about the benefits of these programs.
Due to limited research on these programs, widely held assumptions about the
relationships between program outcomes and societal improvements in disaster risk
reduction remain unchallenged.
The thesis uses case studies of evaluations to explore ways to improve the
evaluation of disaster education programs for children. To build on previous research,
this study began with a methodological review of program evaluations in order to
characterize the tradition of evaluation methods. Based on the finding that few
evaluations examined program theories, program theory models were developed for two
case study evaluations of disaster education programs for children.
The first case used quasi-experimental methodology to underpin an impact
evaluation of ShakeOut, an earthquake and tsunami drill in two Washington State school
districts. The program logic suggested that drills provided children with adequate
understanding of protective actions to prevent injuries and deaths during a disaster. The
second case used process evaluation to explore the implementation of What’s the Plan,
Stan?, a free, voluntary disaster teaching resource distributed to New Zealand primary
schools. The process logic suggested that increased promotion of the resource would
increase its uptake and use.
The case studies revealed that some program theories common to many disaster
education programs for children are faulty. The findings of the ShakeOut evaluation
suggest school drills, as they are currently practiced, do not teach all children adaptive
response skills. The What’s the Plan, Stan? evaluation identified several intervening and
deterrent factors influencing the resource’s uptake and use, suggesting increased national
promotion of the resource is unlikely to increase its use. In both case studies, the
application of theory-based evaluation methods helped to articulate unknown influencing
factors and develop meaningful and feasible outcome indicators for both quantitative and
qualitative research methods. Ongoing research is needed to refine outcome indicators of
programs’ societal impacts.