- About Us
- Statewide Resources
- Get Involved
- For Employees
- Find Us
Evaluation is an Everyday Activity
Program Evaluation Discussions
Updated: 9 hours 17 min ago
Thinking. We do it all the time (hopefully). It is crucial to making even the smallest decisions (what to wear, what to eat), and bigger decisions (where to go, what to do). Given this challenging time, even news watchers would be advised to use evaluative and critical thinking. Especially since evaluation is an everyday activity.
This graphic was provided by WNYC. (There are other graphics; use your search engine to find them.)This graphic makes good sense to me and this applies to almost every news cast (even those without a shooter!).
Above is something that consumers can use to measure the various sources of information that are available daily, especially in these challenging political times. (No, I won’t get into what makes those time challenging; suffice it to say that reacting is not necessarily the best approach, and I see a lot of reacting lately.) Evaluative thinking means that the evaluator measures what has made a difference in a person’s life. Critical thinking means that the individual (in this case the evaluator) asks the important questions, allows individuals to weigh the issues.
Probably the best way you can make a difference (in your life, the lives of significant others, in the world) is to use evaluative thinking. Can the criteria being used be measured? Do the words have an agreed upon definition? Is there any consensus to the issue? If not, why not?
If you do not know if you are thinking evaluatively or thinking critically, stop and ponder. Use your search engine. Study the issues. Do not react to them. Do not blindly follow where others lead. Do not accept what others tell you. Check it out. Fact check. There are independent sources available to help you (Politifact, for example). Reacting is only reinforcing the current state of affairs; be thoughtful. Think.
I want to talk about learning. Real learning. This week I am borrowing a blog from another writer intact. I have never done this. True, I have taken parts of blogs and quoted them. This blog post from the blog called “adapting to perpetual beta” by Harold Jarche is applied here in its entirety because I think the topic is important. I have added the visuals except for the Rodin, which was in the original post.
Yes, it relates to evaluation. We learn (those who value evaluation) throughout our careers. The various forms of learning are engaged (see: Edgar Dale who designed the learning cone though not with percentages that are usually attributed to the styles).(This particular version was developed by Bruce Hyland based on Dale’s work.) When you read the post below, think about how you learn. Engages? Reflective?real learning is not abstract
Are we entering an era that heralds ‘The End of Reflection’, as this NY Times article suggests?
“Mr. [Nicholas] Carr observed that, for decades, Rodin’s 1902 sculpture “The Thinker” epitomized the highest form of contemplation: a figure with an imposing physique staring abstractly downward, hunched over to block out distraction, frozen because it’s a statue, of course, but also because deep thinkers need time and don’t fidget. It’s hard to imagine a postmodern update called “The Tweeter” being quite so inspirational.” Teddy Wayne, NYT
Is reflection solely the realm of sitting and thinking on one’s own? Or is it the ebb and flow of conversations and making meaning through discourse? If it is the latter, then Twitter can be one place where we can make sense of our complex world by engaging with others. Time for silent reflection is undoubtedly beneficial, but can it enable us to understand other opinions and new ideas, or will it lead to narrow egocentric thinking instead?
B.J May shared ‘How 26 Tweets Broke My Filter Bubble’, which enabled him to see the word beyond a workplace that he described as, “All men, all heterosexual, all white”. He decided to follow Marco Rogers’ advice to use “Twitter as a way to understand viewpoints that diverge from your own”. At the end of this experiment, which turned into a permanent practice, May concluded that
“Every one of my opinions on the issues at hand had been challenged, and most had shifted or matured in some way. More importantly, however, was this: The exercise had taught me how to approach a contrary opinion with patience and respect, with curiosity and an intent to learn, with kindness and humanity.” B.J. May
Would B.J. May have been able to learn as much through solitary reflection? His reflection was directly linked to his engagement with others, often fully so. It hurt to learn. He learned socially, as we have for millennia. We need time for reflection, but even more so, we need experiences to reflect upon. This makes our learning personal: felt in our gut.
The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you have not found it yet, keep looking. Do not settle. ~~Steve Jobs.
I made choices about the work I did. I made choices about the life I lived. I did not settle.
It is an easy life to “go with the flow”; to settle, if you will. Convenience is not always the best way even though it might be the easiest. Did I do great work? I don’t know. Did I hear stories of the work I did? I was told after the fact that I had made a difference because of the work I had done. Perhaps, making a difference is doing great work. Perhaps.
However, this quote from Steve Jobs reminded me that loving what one does is important, even if one does not do “great work”. If one does not love what one does, one needs to do what one loves.
So where does evaluation fit in all this? Let me see if I can connect the dots…
I learned about evaluation because a professor needed a statistician. (What she really needed was an evaluator to determine merit, worth, value of her program.) I was in graduate school at the time and needed an assistantship to help me with the financial load. I got the job. In the process, I realized that my educational psychology degree in cognitive psychology wouldn’t really help me even though there were a lot of puzzles to be solved. Evaluation was more hands on and less abstract. I switched “majors”. I learned that solving the puzzle was great fun; I loved it. The puzzle that I needed to solve was whether the program that is, “a set of planned activities and dedicated resources directed toward achievement of specified goal or objective” (quoted from a 2006 EPA flyer) made a difference. So program evaluation was “an individual systematic study that uses objective measurement and analysis to answer specific questions about how well a program is working to achieve its outcomes and why”(quoted from a 2006 EPA flyer). Important words: systematic study, objective measurement, specific questions, achieve its outcomes, why. I loved this work. I studied hard and long. I learned about bias (everyone has bias and therefore is only as objective as the biases are). I attended the first national evaluation conference in Austin, Texas in 1981. (Did anyone ever tell you that west Texas goes on forever? Trust me, it does.) I met other evaluators. I became an evaluator. Bob Ingle was significant in that process. Jim Altschuld was also. There are others to be sure. I loved being an evaluator (still do). I then wanted to do “great work”. The work is the key here, as my work was the doing of evaluation; the being in the trenches. Not the research. Not the teaching. Not the writing (I’ll leave that to Altschuld). The important point here is I LOVE WHAT I AM DOING, being an evaluator. Dots connected.
Bottom line: Love what you are doing; do what you love.
The person without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder. (Thomas Carlyle)
There is much written about finding your purpose if life. Songs are written about purpose; self-help books are written about purpose; businesses are devoted to the concept; jewelry, leadership, among other things, all focus on purpose.
So how do you find purpose? How do you know what your are “supposed” to do in this life? How does that relate to evaluation? Finding your purpose can be really confusing. Let me share a story with you.
I lived in Birmingham, AL in the 80s and 90s. Birmingham is the only place I have lived (and I’ve lived many places) where if you woke up on the first day of spring, EVERYTHING would be in bloom. Everything! In Oregon, spring creeps up on you (a wonderful experience, to be sure). In Minnesota, it feels like it is spring one day and summer the next (or if you are not lucky, winter, again). In Tucson, spring happens in February and if you blink you miss it (well, almost). So I was marveling one day around the first day of spring how wonderful life was and I had an epiphany. I conceptualized what were the three things I wanted to do in this life. I wanted to do good work. I wanted to be a good friend. I wanted to grow spiritually. (I knew that being a boss was not for me, even though it came with perks.)
I had just finished a doctoral program in program evaluation. I realized that I would be “in the trenches” a long time and would spend most of my career doing evaluation work (as opposed to teaching evaluation, researching evaluation, writing about evaluation). I saw that as my purpose. To do good work–good evaluation work.
So what does it mean to do “good evaluation work”?
As an evaluator, I am a member of the American Evaluation Association . That provides me with at least an annual update for interaction with my colleagues (and friends) and skill building. (This year’s meeting is in Atlanta, more on that later.) It also provides many opportunities for me to learn (see the hyperlink above). It also provides me with a structure in the form of the Guiding Principles. This is important because the AEA is NOT a policing body, rather it is an organization that provides guidance for its membership. (You can find the Mission, Vision, Values and Governing Policies here. In addition to what the organization provides there is another body, independent of the AEA, which provides Standards for program evaluators.
I’ve talked about these two documents before. I will talk about them still. I believe that if an evaluator follows the Guiding Principles (Systematic Inquiry, Competence, Integrity/Honesty, Respect for People, and Responsibilities for General and Public Welfare) and the Program Evaluation Standards (and the standards sub parts) (Utility, Feasibility, Propriety, Accuracy, Evaluation Accountability, the evaluator will go good work.
Is this easy? No.
Is following these guidelines and standards worth while? You bet.
The profession is made better. Evaluators are made better. The world (hopefully) is closer to world peace. It certainly has provided me with purpose.
Speaking of world peace, Monday is the celebration of the US independence from Britain.. The US will celebrate the 240th anniversary of the independence then. There will be BBQs (with and without meat) fire works and flags,, parades and picnics and time with friends and family .
Enjoy the holiday!