Nov
19
Filed Under (criteria, program evaluation) by Molly on 19-11-2014

It all depends.

The classic evaluation response. In fact, it is the punch line for one of the few evaluation jokes I can remember (some-timers disease being what it is; if you want to know the joke, ask in your comment).

The response reminds me of something I heard (once again) while I was in Denver. One of the presenters at a session on competencies, certification, credentialing (an indirectly, about accreditation) talked about a criteria for evaluators that is not taught in preparatory programs–the tolerance for ambiguity.  Tolerance for Ambiguity (What do you see in this image?)

What is this tolerance? What is ambiguity?

According to Webster’s Seventh, tolerance is the noun form of the verb “to tolerate” and means “…the relative capacity to endure or adapt physiologically to an unfavorable environmental factor…” also defined as “…sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own; the act of allowing something; allowable deviation from a standard…”.

Using the same source, ambiguity (also a noun) means “…the quality or state of being ambiguous in meaning…” OK. Going on to ambiguous (the root of the word), it  is an adjective meaning “…doubtful or uncertain especially from obscurity or indistinctness…capable of being understood in two or more possible senses…”. Personally, I find the “capable of being understood in two or more possible senses…” relevant to evaluation and to evaluators.

Yet, I have to ask, What does all that mean? It all depends.

Read the rest of this entry »

Nov
11
Filed Under (program evaluation) by Molly on 11-11-2014 and tagged , , , ,

Today is Veteran’s Day in the United States.

It is the day celebrated as a federal holiday by libraries, post offices, school districts; not the university. It originated as Armistice Day in celebration of the end of World War I, the war to end all wars, the Great War. The Last Two Minutes of Fighting

It wasn’t made a national holiday (celebrated by those institutions above) until 1938. The name was changed from Armistice Day to Veterans Day in 1954 after the Korean War to remember all veterans, not just those from WWI.

Yet these women and men often give the ultimate sacrifice and are often not recognized for their service.  Metrics do not capture the value, merit, or worth of their service, yet it is usually metrics that is the focus of any evaluation done.

veterans-day-images-quotes-2 (This cartoon is the segue to the next US holiday.)

my two cents.

molly.

Nov
05

It has been about  five/chinese_symbols_number fiveyears since I started this blog (more or less–my anniversary is actually in early December) .

Because I am an evaluator, I have asked several time is this blog making a difference. And those posts, the ones in which I ask “is this blog making a difference”, are the ones which get the most comments.  Now, truly, most comments are often either about marketing some product, inviting me to view another blog, mirroring comments made previously, or comments in a language which I cannot read (even with an online translator). Yet, there must be something about “making a difference” that engages viewers and then engages them to make a comment.

Today, I read a comment Read the rest of this entry »

Oct
30
Filed Under (Methodology, program evaluation) by Molly on 30-10-2014 and tagged , , ,

I read. A lot.

I also blog. Weekly, unless I’m not in the office.

This past week I read (again) Harold Jarche’s blog. He posts periodically on interesting social media finds. Some of these finds are relevant to evaluation (even if they are not framed that way). His post on October 17 included a post from Kate Pinner called Half-baked ideas  (She is found on twitter @kmpinner ).  She says, “Just because you know how to do something doesn’t mean you should: It’s rewarding to give other people a chance to shine.”

Pinner’s comment is related to a thought I’ve been mulling for some time now (a couple of years, actually). That is the whole idea of “doing as.”

David Fetterman Fetterman talks about empowerment evaluation Read the rest of this entry »

Oct
23
Filed Under (criteria, program evaluation) by Molly on 23-10-2014 and tagged , , , , ,

Having just returned from the annual AEA conference (Evaluation 2014) in Denver, I am taking this moment to reflect, process, and apply.front range of the rocky mountains

For years my criteria for a “good” conference was the following

  • See three long time friends and spend some time catching up;
  • Meet three people I didn’t know before and would like to continue to know;
  • Get three new ideas that I can use.

I think this year’s conference was a success (despite the difficulty in identifying who was doing what when because the management corporation minimized the program in an attempt to be ecological, if excluding). If I were to ask my daughters to rate the conference on a scale of one (1) to 10 (ten), one being not “good”, 10 being “good”, I think they would have said an 8 – 8.5. (They have their own following of friends and their own interests.)

I saw and talked to three long time friends, although I missed those who have chosen not to attend AEA any more (I must be getting old) and those with whom I didn’t spend time.

I met more than three people I didn’t know before and I must say, if they are any indication (and I think they are) of the evolution of the association, the association is in good hands (even though I miss the intimacy I “grew up with”). Read the rest of this entry »

Recently, I drafted a paper about a capacity building; I’ll be presenting it at the 2014 AEA conference. The example on which I was reporting was regional and voluntary; it took a dedication, a commitment from participants. During the drafting of that paper, I had think about the parts of the program; what would be necessary for individuals who were interested in evaluation and had did not have a degree. I went back to the competencies listed in the AJE article (March 2005) that I cited in a previous post. I found it interesting to see that the choices I made (after consulting with evaluation colleagues) were listed in the competencies identified by Stevahn et al., yet they list so much more. So the question occurs to me is: To be competent, to build institutional evaluation capacity are all those needed? Read the rest of this entry »

Over the last several months, the Local Arrangements Working Group has been blogging at AEA365. One of ways evaluators can get ready for the upcoming annual conference is to read what the LAWG has to say about the conference. This year, the conference is once again in Denver. AEA was in Denver in 2008. Be forewarned–Denver is the mile high city. The air is rarefied and very dry. It may snow!

The LAWG has a lot to say about the conference and there are A LOT of links in these posts that are worth checking.  For those who have not been to AEA before or for those who have recently embraced evaluation, reading their posts are a wealth of information, as is the AEA website.

I will be presenting at two sessions this year–one on blogging (duh…) and one on capacity building. I see them related. I will also (like last year) be assisting with a professional development session (number 25) with my long time friend and colleague, Jim Altschuld. The professional development session occurs on Wednesday, October 15, 2014 from 8:00am MT – 3:00pm MT. It is titled Practical Ways to Link Needs Assessment (NA) with Asset/Capacity Building. (Just a little advertisement :) ) It will draw from his new book, Bridging the Gap Between Asset/Capacity Building and Needs Assessment. Bridging the Gap-altschuld Read the rest of this entry »

Sep
19
Filed Under (criteria, program evaluation) by Molly on 19-09-2014 and tagged , , ,

I’ve just spent all of August and most of September editing chapters for a volume of New Directions in Evaluation (NDE) on Accreditation, Certification, and Credentialing. These topics all relate to competencies which all relate to building capacity. Now I can site a lot of references for competencies. (For example, Stevahn, King, Ghere, Minnema, 2005, AJE 26(1), pp. 43-59., among others see the work by King and cadre–that one cited just happens to be on my desk right now.) This group has been working on competencies for the last 15 or so years. This is important work–as well as problematic (hence the issue of NDE). I won’t go into details here because the NDE volume pretty much addresses these issues from a variety of perspectives. We (my co-editor, Jim Altschuld and I) have assembled (what I think is) a  stellar collection of writers who have good ideas. Editing an issue of NDE (again) was a valuable experience for me: I learned again why I don’t write the definitive text on anything; I learned again how important Accreditation, Certification, and Credentialing are; I am reminded how complicated it is to assemble a list of competencies that adequately capture what is an evaluator; and I am once again humbled, recognizing that cynicism does not come with the territory–it is acquired.

Now, a bit on competencies and why they are important. Read the rest of this entry »

Sep
11
Filed Under (program evaluation) by Molly on 11-09-2014 and tagged , , , ,

This summer I spent a lot of time dealing with needs assessments and talking about needs and assets. It occurred to me that the difference between need and wants has a lot to do with evaluation (among other things). So what are needs? What are wants? How does all this relate to evaluation?

Needs.

Maslow spoke eloquently about needs in his hierarchy, and although the hierarchy is often presented as a pyramid,Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needs.svg Maslow didn’t present the needs this way. He did present this hierarchy as a set of building blocks with basic needs (physiological) as the foundation, followed by safety, loving/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. He talks about this theory of motivation in his book, Motivation and Personalitymaslow's motivation and personality (a 3rd edition is available as well). This view of the individual ushered in the humanistic view of psychology (often called the third theory after behaviorism and psychoanalysis). He believed that human could not live without these needs and advocated that they are necessary for survival.

Wants

A “want” is often considered a desire based purely in economic, social, or  psychological reality of human existence. It is something that an individual would like to have. (Chocolate, any one?) A want is not essential to human existence; it is only something an individual would like to have. Unfortunately, there are limited resources (as well as a large body of literature) talking about having enoughenough is enough. If you have enough, then wants are few and resources are available for everyone.

Read the rest of this entry »

I just finished a chapter on needs assessment in the public sector–you know that part of the work environment that provides a service to the community and receives part of its funding from the county/state/federal governments. Most of you know I’ve been an academic for at least 31 years, maybe more (depending on when you start the clock). In that time I’ve worked as an internal evaluator, a program planner, and a classroom teacher. Most of what I’ve done has an evaluative component to it. (I actually earned my doctorate in program evaluation when most people in evaluation came from other disciplines.) During that time I’ve worked on many programs/projects in a variety of situations (individual classroom, community, state, and country). I find it really puzzling that evaluators will take on evaluation without having a firm foundation on which to base those evaluations. (I know I have done this; I can offer all manner of excuses, only not here).

If I had been invited to participate in the evaluation at the beginning of the program, at the conceptualization stage, I would have asked if a needs assessment had been done and what was the outcome of that assessment. Was there really a lack (i.e., a need); or was this “need” contrived to do something else (bring in grant money, further a career, make a stakeholder happy, etc.)? Read the rest of this entry »