I have a few thoughts about causation, which I will get to in a bit…first, though, I want to give my answers to the post last week.
I had listed the following and wondered if you thought they were a design, a method, or an approach. (I had also asked which of the 5Cs was being addressed–clarity or consistency.) Here is what I think about the other question.
Case study is a method used when gathering qualitative data, that is, words as opposed to numbers. Bob Stake, Robert Brinkerhoff, Robert Yin, and others have written extensively on this method.
Pretest-post test Control Group is (according to Campbell and Stanley, 1963) an example of a true experimental design if a control group is used (pg. 8 and 13). NOTE: if only one group is used (according to Campbell and Stanley, 1963), pretest-post test is considered a pre-experimental design (pg. 7 and 8); still it is a design.
Ethnography is a method used when gathering qualitative data often used in evaluation by those with training in anthropology. David Fetterman is one such person who has written on this topic.
Interpretive is an adjective use to describe the approach one uses in an inquiry (whether that inquiry is as an evaluator or a researcher) and can be traced back to the sociologists Max Weber and Wilhem Dilthey in the later part of the 19th century.
Naturalistic is an adjective use to describe an approach with a diversity of constructions and is a function of “…what the investigator does…” (Lincoln and Guba, 1985, pg.8).
Random Control Trials (RCT) is the “gold standard” of clinical trials, now being touted as the be all and end all of experimental design; its proponents advocate the use of RCT in all inquiry as it provides the investigator with evidence that X (not Y) caused Z.
Quasi-Experimental is a term used by Campbell and Stanley(1963) to denote a design where random assignment cannot be made for ethical or practical reasons be accomplished; this is often contrasted with random selection for survey purposes.
Qualitative is an adjective to describe an approach (as in qualitative inquiry), a type of data (as in qualitative data) or
methods (as in qualitative methods). I think of qualitative as an approach which includes many methods.
Focus Group is a method of gathering qualitative data through the use of specific, structured interviews in the form of questions; it is also an adjective for defining the type of interviews or the type of study being conducted (Krueger & Casey, 2009, pg. 2)
Needs Assessment is method for determining priorities for the allocation of resources and actions to reduce the gap between the existing and the desired.
I’m sure there are other answers to the terms listed above; these are mine. I’ve gotten one response (from Simon Hearn at BetterEvaluation). If I get others, I’ll aggregate them and share them with you. (Simon can check his answers against this post.
Now causation, and I pose another question: If evaluation (remember the root word here is value) is determining if a program (intervention, policy, product, etc. ) made a difference, and determined the merit or worth (i.e., value) of that program (intervention, policy, product, etc.), how certain are you that your program (intervention, policy, program, etc.) caused the outcome? Chris Lysy and Jane Davidson have developed several cartoons that address this topic. They are worth the time to read them.
When I teach scientific writing (and all evaluators need to be able to communicate clearly verbally and in writing), I focus on the 5Cs: larity, oherence, onciseness, onsistency, and orrectness, I’ve written about the 5Cs in a previous blog post, so I won’t belabor them here. Suffice it to say that when I read a document that violates one (or more) of these 5Cs, I have to wonder.
Recently, I was reading a document where the author used design (first), then method, then approach. In reading the context, I think (not being able to clarify) that the author was referring to the same thing–a method and used these different words in an effort to make the reading more entertaining where all it did was cause obfuscation, violating larity, one of the 5Cs .
So I’ll ask you, reader. Are these different? What makes them different? Should they have been used interchangeably in the document? I went to my favorite thesaurus of evaluation terms (Scriven) (published by Sage) to see what he had to say, if anything. Only “design” was listed and the definition said, “…process of stipulating the investigatory procedures to be followed in doing a certain evaluation…” OK–investigatory procedure.
So, I’m going to list several terms used commonly in evaluation and research. Think about what each is–design, method, approach. I’ll provide my answers next week. Let me know what you think each of the following is:
Pretest-Posttest Control Group
Random Control Trials (RCT)
I was reminded recently about the 1992 AEA meeting in Seattle, WA. That seems like so long ago. The hot topic of that meeting was whether qualitative data or quantitative data were best. At the time I was a nascent evaluator having been in the field less that 10 years and absorbed debates like this as a dry sponge does water. It was interesting; stimulating; exciting. It felt cutting edge.
Now 20+ years later, I wonder what all the hype was about. Now, there can be rigor in what ever data are collected, regardless of type (numbers or words); language has been developed to look at that rigor. (Rigor can also escape the investigator regardless of the data collected; another post, another day.) Words are important for telling stories (and there is a wealth of information on how story can be rigorous) and numbers are important for counting (and numbers have a long history of use–Thanks Don Campbell). Using both (that is, mixed methods) makes really good sense when conducting an evaluation in community environments, work that I’ve done for most of my career (community-based work).
I was reading another evaluation blog (ACET) and found the following bit of information that I thought I’d share as it is relevant to looking at data. This particular post (July, 2012) was a reflection of the author. (I quote from that blog).
Triangulation was a new (to me at least) concept in 1981 when a whole chapter was devoted to the topic in a volume dedicated to Donald Campbell, titled Scientific Inquiry and the Social Sciences. I have no doubt that this concept was not new; Crano, the author of this chapter titled “Triangulation and Cross-Cultural Research”, has three and one half pages of references listed that support the premise put forth in the chapter. Mainly, that using data from multiple different sources may increase the understanding of the phenomena under investigation. That is what triangulation is all about–looking at a question from multiple points of view; bringing together the words and the numbers and then offering a defensible explanation.
I’m afraid that many beginning evaluators forget that words can support numbers and numbers can support words.
Recently, I was privileged to see the recommendations of William (Bill) Tierney on the top education blogs. (Tierney is the Co-director of the Pullias Center for Higher Education at the University of Southern California.) He (among others) writes the blog, 21st scholar. The blogs are actually the recommendation of his research assistant Daniel Almeida. These are the recommendations:
What criteria were used? What criteria would you use? Some criteria that come to mind are interest, readability, length, frequency. But I’m assuming that they would be your criteria (and you know what assuming does…)
If I’ve learned anything in my years as an evaluator, it is to make assumptions explicit. Everyone comes to the table with built in biases (called cognitive biases). I call them personal and situational biases (I did my dissertation on those biases). So by making your assumptions explicit (and thereby avoiding personal and situational biases), you are building a rubric because a rubric is developed from criteria for a particular product, program, policy, etc.
How would you build your rubric? Many rubrics are in chart format, that is columns and rows with the criteria detailed in those cross boxes. That isn’t cast in stone. Given the different ways people view the world–linear, circular, webbed–there may be others, I would set yours up in the format that works best for you. The only thing to keep in mind is be specific.
Now, perhaps you are wondering how this relates to evaluation in the way I’ve been using evaluation. Keep in mind evaluation is an everyday activity. And everyday, all day, you perform evaluations. Rubrics formalizes the evaluations you conduct–by making the criteria explicit. Sometimes you internalize them; sometimes you write them down. If you need to remember what you did the last time you were in a similar situation, I would suggest you write them down. No, you won’t end up with lots of little sticky notes posted all over. Use your computer. Create a file. Develop criteria that are important to you. Typically, the criteria are in a table format; an x by x form. If you are assigning number, you might want to have the rows be the numbers (for example, 1-10) and the columns be words that describe those numbers (for example, 1 boring; 10 stimulating and engaging). Rubrics are used in reviewing manuscripts, student papers, assigning grades to activities as well as programs. Your format might look like this:
Or it might not. What other configuration have you seen rubrics? How would you develop your rubric? Or would you–perhaps you prefer a bunch of sticky notes. Let me know.
Ever wonder where the 0.05 probability level number was derived? Ever wonder if that is the best number? How many of you were taught in your introduction to statistics course that 0.05 is the probability level necessary for rejecting the null hypothesis of no difference? This confidence may be spurious. As Paul Bakker indicates in the AEA 365 blog post for March 28, “Before you analyze your data, discuss with your clients and the relevant decision makers the level of confidence they need to make a decision.” Do they really need to be 95% confident? Or would 90% confidence be sufficient? What about 75% or even 55%?
Think about it for a minute? If you were a brain surgeon, you wouldn’t want anything less than 99.99% confidence; if you were looking at level of risk for a stock market investment, 55% would probably make you a lot of money. The academic community has held to and used the probability level of 0.05 for years (the computation of the p value dating back to 1770). (Quoting Wikipedia, ” In the 1770s Laplace considered the statistics of almost half a million births. The statistics showed an excess of boys compared to girls. He concluded by calculation of a p-value that the excess was a real, but unexplained, effect.”) Fisher first proposed the 0.05 level in 1025 and established a one in 20 limit for statistical significance when considering a two tailed test. Sometimes the academic community makes the probability level even more restrictive by using 0.01 or 0.001 to demonstrate that the findings are significant. Scientific journals expect 95% confidence or a probability level of at least 0.05.
Although I have held to these levels, especially when I publish a manuscript, I have often wondered if this level makes sense. If I am only curious about a difference, do I need 0.05? Oor could I use 0.10 or 0.15 or even 0.20? I have often asked students if they are conducting confirmatory or exploratory research? I think confirmatory research expects a more stringent probability level. I think exploratory research requires a less stringent probability level. The 0.05 seems so arbitrary.
Then there is the grounded theory approach which doesn’t use a probability level. It generates theory from categories which are generated from concepts which are identified from data, usually qualitative in nature. It uses language like fit, relevance, workability, and modifiability. It does not report statistically significant probabilities as it doesn’t use inferential statistics. Instead, it uses a series of probability statements about the relationships between concepts.
So what do we do? What do you do? Let me know.
Recently, I came across a blog post by Daniel Green, who is the head of strategic media partnerships at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He coauthored this post with Mayur Patel, vice president of strategy and assessment at the Knight Foundation. I mention this because those two foundations have contributed $3.25 million in seed funding “…to advance a better understanding of audience engagement and media impact…”. They are undertaking an ambitious project to develop a rubric (of sorts) to determine “…how media influences the ways people think and act, and contributes to broader societal changes…”. Although it doesn’t specifically say, I include social media in the broad use of “media”. The blog post talks about broader agenda–that of informed and engaged communities. These foundations believe that an informed and engaged communities will strengthen “… democracy and civil society to helping address some of the world’s most challenging social problems.”
Or in other words, what difference is being made, which is something I wonder about all the time. (I’m an evaluator, after all, and I want to know what difference is made.)
Although there are strong media forces out there (NYTimes, NPR, BBC, the Guardian, among others), I wonder about the strength and effect of social media (FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, among others). Anecdotally, I can tell you that social media is everywhere and IS changing the way people think and act. I watch my now 17 y/o who uses the IM feature on her social media to communicate with her friends, set up study dates, find out homework assignments, not the phone like I did. I watch my now 20 y/o multitask–talk to me on Skype and read and respond to her FB entry. She uses IM as much as her sister. I know that social media was instrumental in the Arab spring. I know that major institutions have social media connections (FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.). Social media is everywhere. And we have no good way to determine if it is making a difference and what that difference is.
For something so ubiquitous (social media), why is there no way to evaluate social media other than through the use of analytics? I’ve been asking that question since I first posted my query “Is this blog making a difference?” back in March 2012. Since I’ve been posting since December 2009, that gave me over 2 years from which to gather data. That is a luxury when it comes to programming, especially when many programs often are a few hours in duration and an evaluation is expected.
I hope that this project provides useful information for those of us who have come kicking and screaming to social media and have seen the light. Even though they are talking about the world of media, I’m hoping that they can come up with measures that address the social aspect of media. The technology provided IS useful; the question is what difference is it making?
We are four months into 2013 and I keep asking the question “Is this blog making a difference?” I’ve asked for an analytic report to give me some answers. I’ve asked you readers for your stories.
Let’s hear it for SEOs and how they pick up that title–I credit that with the number of comments I’ve gotten. I AM surprised at the number of comments I have gotten since January (hundreds, literally). Most say things like, “of course it is making a difference.” Some compliment me on my writing style. Some are in a foreign language which I cannot read (I am illiterate when it comes to Cyrillic, Arabic, Greek, Chinese, and other non-English alphabets). Some are marketing–wanting ping backs to their recently started blogs for some product. Some have commented specifically on the content (sample size and confidence intervals); some have commented on the time of year (vernal equinox). Occasionally, I get a comment like the comment below and I keep writing.
The questions of all questions… Do I make a difference? I like how you write and let me answer your question. Personally I was supposed to be dead ages ago because someone tried to kill me for the h… of it … Since then (I barely survived) I have asked myself the same question several times and every single time I answer with YES. Why? Because I noticed that whatever you do, there is always someone using what you say or do to improve their own life. So, I can answer the question for you: Do you make a difference? Yes, you do, because there will always be someone who uses your writings to do something positive with it. So, I hope I just made your day! And needless to say, keep the blog posts coming!
Enough update. New topic: I just got a copy of the third edition of Miles and Huberman (my to go reference for qualitative data analysis). Wait you say–Miles and Huberman are dead–yes, they are. Johnny Saldana (there needs to be a~ above the “n” in his name only I don’t know how to do that with this keyboard) was approached by Sage to be the third author and revise and update the book. A good thing, I think. Miles and Huberman’s second edition was published in 1994. That is almost 20 years. I’m eager to see if it will hold as a classic given that there are many other books on qualitative coding in press currently. (The spring research flyer from Gilford lists several on qualitative inquiry and analysis from some established authors.)
I also recently sat in on a research presentation of a candidate for a tenure track position here at OSU who talked about how the analysis of qualitative data was accomplished. Took me back to when I was learning–index cards and sticky notes. Yes, there are marvelous software programs out there (NVivo, Ethnograph, N*udist); I will support the argument that the best way to learn about your qualitative data is to immerse yourself in it with color coded index cards and sticky notes. Then you can use the software to check your results. Keep in mind, though, that you are the PI and you will bring many biases to the analysis of your data.
Harold Jarche says in his April 21 post, “What I’ve learned about blogging is that you have to do it for yourself. Most of my posts are just thoughts that I want to capture.” What an interesting way to look at blogging. Yes, there is content; yes, there is substance. What there is most are captured thoughts. Thoughts committed to “paper” before they fly away. How many times have you said to yourself–if only…because you don’t remember what you were thinking; where you were going. It may be a function of age; it may be a function of the times; it may be a function of other things as well (too little sleep, too much information, lack of f0cus).
When I blog on evaluation, I want to provide content that is meaningful. I want to provide substance (as I understand it) in the field of evaluation. Most of all, I want to capture what I’m thinking at the moment (like now). Last week was a good example of capturing thoughts. I wasn’t making up the rubric content; it is real. All evaluation needs to have criteria against which the “program” is judged for merit and worth. How else can you determine the value of something? So I ask you: What criteria do you use in the moment you decide? (and a true evaluator will say, “It depends…”)
A wise man (Elie Wiesel) said, “A man’s (sic) life, really, is not made up of years but of moments, all of which are fertile and unique.” Even though he has not laid out explicitly his rubric, it is clear what makes them have merit and worth– “moments which are fertile and unique”. An interesting way to look at life, eh?
Jarche gives us a 10 year update about his experience blogging. He is asking a question I’ve been asking: He asks what has changed and what has he learned in the past 10 years. He talks about metrics (spammers and published posts). I can do that. He doesn’t talk about analytics (although I’m sure he could) and I don’t want to talk about analytics, either. Some comments on my blog suggest that I look at length of time spent on a page…that seems like a reasonable metric. What I really want to hear is what has changed (Jarche talks about what has changes as being perpetual beta). Besides the constantly changing frontier of social media, I go back to the comment by Elie Wiesel–moments that are fertile and unique. How many can you say you’ve had today? One will make my day–one will get my gratitude. Today I am grateful for being able to blog.
A rubric is a way to make criteria (or standards) explicit and it does that in writing so that there can be no misunderstanding. It is found in many evaluative activities especially assessment of classroom work. (Misunderstanding is still possible because the English language is often not clear–something I won’t get into today; suffice it to say that a wise woman said words are important–keep that in mind when crafting a rubric.)
This week there were many events that required rubrics. Rubrics may have been implicit; they certainly were not explicit. Explicit rubrics were needed.
I’ll start with apologies for the political nature of today’s post.
Certainly, an implicit rubric for this event can be found in this statement:
Only it was not used. When there are clear examples of inappropriate behavior; behavior that my daughters’ kindergarten teacher said was mean and not nice, a rubric exists. Simple rubrics are understood by five year olds (was that behavioir mean OR was that behavior nice). Obviously 46 senators could only hear the NRA; they didn’t hear that the behavior (school shootings) was mean.
Boston provided us with another example of the mean vs. nice rubric. Bernstein got the concept of mean vs. nice.
There were lots of rubrics, however implicit, for that event. The NY Times reported that helpers (my word) ran TOWARD those in need not away from the site of the explosion (violence). There were many helpers. A rubric existed, however implicit.
I’m no longer worked up–just determined and for that I need a rubric. This image may not give me the answer; it does however give me pause.
For more information on assessment and rubrics see: Walvoord, B. E. (2004). Assessment clear and simple. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Today is the first full day of spring…this morning when I biked to the office it rained (not unlike winter…) and it was cold (also, not unlike winter)…although I just looked out the window and it is sunny so maybe spring is really here. Certainly the foliage tells us it is spring–forsythia, flowering quince, ornamental plum trees; although the crocuses are spent, daffodils shine from front yards; tulips are in bud, and daphne–oh, the daphne–is in its glory.
I’ve already posted this week; next week is spring break at OSU and at the local high school. I won’t be posting. So I leave you with this thought: Evaluation is an everyday activity, one you and I do often without thinking; make evaluation systematic and think about the merit and worth. Stop and smell the flowers.