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 »

From Social Networks: What Maslow Misses | Psychology Today – via @mslogophiliac

“Humans are social animals for good reason. Without collaboration, there is no survival. It was not possible to defeat a Woolley Mammoth, build a secure structure, or care for children while hunting without a team effort. It’s more true now than then. Our reliance on each other grows as societies became more complex, interconnected, and specialized. Connection is a prerequisite for survival, physically and emotionally.”

This statement, which I found on Harold Jarche ‘s blog, applies to evaluation as much as it applies to the example provided by Psychology Today.

Evaluation is a collaborative effort; a team effort, a social effort. Without the collaboration, evaluation lacks much. I’m not sure that survival is dependent on evaluation and collaborative effort; perhaps. The evaluator may know all about evaluation and yet not be able to solve the problem presented by the client because the evaluator doesn’t know about the topic needing to be evaluated. The evaluator may know about something similar to and different from what the client needs and yet, not know about the specific problem. Let me give you an example.

I’ve done a lot of evaluation in the natural resources area and as a result, I’ve learned much about various natural resource topics, including horticulture, plant science, crop science, marine science. I do not know much about potatoes. A while back, a colleague called me and asked if I could/would serve as the evaluator on a ZEBRA CHIP project. Before I said, Sure, I asked about ZEBRA CHIP. Apparently, it is a potato disease transmitted by bacteria carrying psyllid that is causing much economic devastation among growers. It shows up best when the potatoes are made into chips (hence the name). It looks like this: zebra chip. To me, it isn’t particularly stripped like the animal which offers its name, yet it doesn’t look like potato chips I’m used to seeing.  I”m told that there is an unpleasant flavor to the chips as well. I knew a lot about growing things, not about potatoes, even though I’ve worked with potato growers before, just not about this disease.

So, I said sure, only to discover that I have 11 lines in which to write a cogent evaluation section for the work that Extension will be doing (if the grant is funded). If the grant is funded, it will be a five year effort. A continuation actually, which brings me full circle–a collaboration of multiple universities, multiple disciplines, multiple investigators. So what could I say cogently in 11 lines? I suggested that perhaps looking at intention and confidence would be appropriate because we (remember, I said, “Sure”) would not be able to measure actual behavior change. And to overcome the psyllids and eradicate this problem (not unlike the spotted wing drosophila which is affecting the soft fruits of the NW, specifically blueberries), we would need to get as close to behavior change as possible once the teaching has occurred. How can social media be used here? Good question–something to explore. At what level of Maslow’s hierarchy is this collaboration?  Survival, sure. Somehow I don’t think Maslow was focused on economic survival.

my two cents.

molly.


 

 

 

 

Within the last 24 hours I’ve had two experiences that remind me of how tenuous our connection is to others.

  1. Yesterday, I was at the library to return several books and pick up a hold. As I went to check out using the digitally connected self-check out station, I got an “out of service” message. Not thinking much of it, as I had received that message before, I moved to another machine. And got the same message! So I went to the main desk. There was a person in front of me; she was taking a lot of time. Turns out it wasn’t her; it was the internet (or intranet, don’t know which). There was no connection! After several minutes, a paper system was implemented and I was assured that the book would be listed by this evening. That the library had a back up system impressed me; I’ve often wondered what would happen if the electricity went out for a long periods of time since the card catalogs are no longer available.
  2. Also, yesterday, I received a phone call on my office land line (!), which is a rare occurrence these days. On the other end was a long time friend and colleague. We are working feverishly on finishing a NDE volume. We have an August 22 deadline and I will be out of town taking my youngest daughter to college. Family trumps everything. He was calling because the gardeners at his condo had cut the cable to his internet, television, and most importantly, his wi-fi. He couldn’t Skype me (our usual form of communication)! He didn’t expect resumption of service until the next day (August 20 at 9:47am PT he went back on line–he lives in the Eastern Time Zone). Read the rest of this entry »
Aug
12

Wikipedia says the phrase of “dog days” refers to the sultry (read: HOTdog days of summer) days of summer, typically July and August in the northern hemisphere. In Oregon, it is definitely August. It was 100.4 yesterday; 96 the day before. I didn’t sleep well, even with fans and cool evenings (low 60s). This is the hottest summer I’ve experienced in the 16 years I’ve been in Oregon–there were 10 days of hot weather in May, June, and July; and now so far in August. The Dog days are also when the star Sirius can be seen (assuming there is no cloud cover, a common phenomenon  in Oregon–if not the winter rainy season, then summer thunderstorms.) Dog days were thought to be when “the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man (sic), among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies.” according to Brady’s Clavis Calendaria, 1813 (A Compendious Analysis of the Calendar; Illustrated with Ecclesiastica, Historical, and Classical Anecdotes 2 volumes). Read the rest of this entry »

Aug
06
Filed Under (program evaluation) by Molly on 06-08-2014 and tagged , ,

Periodically I read Harold Jarche’s blog, Shedding Light on Workplace Transformation.  The post on June 13, 2014 talks about  the topic of  “work is changing”. He offered (as he is wont to do) some insights he has gleaned from social media over the the past fortnight including a statement from Hugh MacLeod @gapingvoid. MacLeod also wrote about what is corporate culture. A relevant topic for evaluators.

It gave me pause, especially in light of evaluation and the work I do. MacLeod says, “The nature of work is changing. People’s relationship with work is changing. The changes to society will be vast.” Because the nature of work is changing, the nature of evaluation is also changing. The change in evaluation is evidenced by looking at the evolution of evaluationevolution from the early 1960s to the present. That is over 50 years of evolution–I know that in the grand scheme of things, 50 years is nothing. For this profession, it is a lot. It kinda mirrors the leaps and bounds in technology. Of that 50+ years, I’ve been in the field over 30; I’ve seen so many changes.  Recognizing the time to step out and let the next generation of evaluators work is critical. Reinventing yourself so that you can still play in the sandbox sandbox(so to speak) is also important.

I recently had a conversation with a long time friend who has been successful at reinventing self. At the age where most people want only to play with their grandchildren grandparent_child_op, my friend is jetting around the world looking NOT at evaluation rather another field entirely, albeit still professionally and scholarly invested; being invited as a consultant, a speaker, a presenter at various meetings. Another long-time friend of mine who has been “retired” for 10 years has just finished a new book and has not one, TWO monographs in press. This is retirement?

Not only are evaluators re-inventing themselves to match the times, evaluation is also evolving, changing, and thinking differently than 50 years ago. Is this the evolution of a profession? Is this the evolution of the workforce? Is this the evolution of work? Yes. Yes. Yes.

What are you doing to further the profession? How will your contribution to the field help make the profession better? Let me know.

my two cents.

molly.

What? So what? Now what?

Sounds like an evaluation problem.

King and Stevahn (in press) tells us the first query requires thoughtful observation of a situation; the second query a discussion of possible options and implications of those options, and the third query calls for the creation of a list of potential next steps.adaptive_action.wiki

Yet these are the key words for “adaptive action” (If you haven’t looked at the web site, I suggest you do.) One quote that is reflective of adaptive action is, “Adaptive Action reveals how we can be proactive in managing today and influencing tomorrow.”( David W. Jamieson, University of St. Thomas). Adaptive action can help you

  • Understand the sources of uncertainty in your chaotic world
  • Explore opportunities for action and their implications as they occur
  • Learn a simple process that cuts through complexity
  • Transform the work of individuals, teams, organizations and communities
  • Take on any challenge—as large as a strategic plan or small as a messy meeting
  • Take action to improve productivity, collaboration and sustainability

Evaluation is a proactive (usually) activity (oh, I know that sometimes evaluation is flying by the seat of your pantsflying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-Laurence-Musgrove-with-credit-line  and is totally reactive). People are now recognizing that evaluation will benefit them, their programs, and their organizations and that it isn’t personal (although that fear is still out there).

Although the site is directed towards leadership in organizations, the key questions are evaluative. You can’t determine “what” without evidence (data); you can’t determine “so what” unless you have a plan (logic model), and you can’t think about “now what” unless you have an outcome that you can move toward. These questions are evaluative in contemporary times because there are no simple problems any more. (Panarchy approaches similar situations using a similar model  adaptive-cycle Action.) Complex situations are facing program people and evaluators all the time. Using adaptive action may help. Panarchy may help (the book is called Panarchy by Gunderson and Hollings panarchy .)

Just think of adaptive action as another model of evaluation.

mytwo cents

molly.

Summer reading 2 Many of you have numerous lists for summer reading (NY Times, NPR, Goodreads, Amazon, others…). My question is what are you reading to further your knowledge about evaluation? Perhaps you are; perhaps you’re not. So I’m going to give you one more list :) …yes, it is evaluative.

If you want something light:  Regression to the Mean by Ernest R. House.house--regression to the mean It is a novel. It is about evaluation. It explains what evaluators do from a political perspective.

If you want something qualitative:  Qualitative Data Analysis by Matthew B. Miles, A. Michael Huberman, and Johnny Saldana.Qualitative data analysis ed. 3 It is the new 3rd edition which Sage (the publisher) commissioned. A good thing, too, as both Miles and Huberman are no longer able to do a revision. My new go-to book.

If you want something on needs assessment: Bridging the Gap Between Asset/Capacity Building and Needs Assessment by James W. Altschuld. Bridging the Gap-altschuld Most needs assessments start with what is lacking (i.e., needed); this proposes that an assessment start with what is present (assets) and build  from there, and in the process, meeting needs.

If you want something on higher education:  College (Un)bound by Jeff Selingo.college unbound by jeffry selingo  The state of higher education and some viable alternatives by a contributing editor at the Chronicle of Higher Education. Yes, it is evaluative.

Most of these I’ve mentioned before. I’ve read the above. I recommend them.

Read the rest of this entry »

Jul
16
Filed Under (program evaluation) by Molly on 16-07-2014 and tagged , , , , ,

Recently I came across some old note of mine, from some meeting several years ago. I though it would be useful in my writing so I saved it; actually there were two notes that were similar in content. They both relate to blogging, although at the time I didn’t know I would be blogging.

I lump them all under the title of taking a stand, although stance would probably be more descriptive.

The notes are these:

  • Know your audience.target audience 2
  • Be proactive to anticipate needs.
  • Be reactive to meet needs.Needs UXPyramid500h-1
  • Be authentic.Authentic
  • Be direct.
  • Be unapologetic.

Read the rest of this entry »