Filed Under (Methodology, program evaluation) by Molly on 18-11-2015 and tagged , , ,

I got back to the office Monday after spending last week in Chicago at the AEA annual conference, Evaluation 2015.Evaluation 2015 theme Next year AEA will be in Atlanta, October 24-29, 2016.  atlanta-georgia-skyline Mark your calendars!

I am tired. I take a breath (many breaths), try to catch up (I don’t), and continue to read my email (hundreds of email). I’m sure there are some I will miss–I always do.  In the meantime, I process what I experienced. And pass the conference through my criteria for a successful conference: Did I

  1. See three (and visit with) long time friends: yes.
  2. Get three new ideas: maybe.
  3. Meet three new people I’d like to add to my “friendlies” category: maybe.

Why three. Seemed like a good number; more than one (not representative) and less than five (too hard to remember). Read the rest of this entry »

Filed Under (program evaluation) by Molly on 03-11-2015

November 9, 2015. Chicago. (they are everywhere…everywhere).

AEA AEA logo will be holding the annual Evaluation conference there starting November 9, 2015. The theme this year put forward by President Stewart Donaldson Stewart Donaldson is Evaluation 2015 theme. And as always, much thought and preparation has gone into planning this conference. Will you be there? I will. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed Under (program evaluation) by Molly on 30-10-2015

I was reading a blog post by Harold Jarche harold jarche who stated that “Donald Taylor notes that, ‘everyone has a memory that is particularly attuned to learning some things very easily’. In his post, Donald says that the context in which learn something, as well as how it is presented and received, are all important aspects of whether we will remember something.”

Jennifer Greene jennifer greene-2, a long-time colleague currently at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, addresses context when she says, “We all know that the contexts in which our evaluands* take place are inextricably intertwined with the program as envisioned, implemented, experienced, and judged. And regarding this program context, Saville Kushner saville-kushnerhas profoundly challenged us to ask not, “how well are participants doing in the program?” but rather “how well does the program serve, respect, and respond to these participants’ needs, hopes, and dreams in this place?” Read the rest of this entry »

My friend and colleague, Patricia Rogers, says of cognitive bias , “It would be good to think through these in terms of systematic evaluation approaches and the extent to which they address these.” This was in response to the article herecognitive bias The article says that the human brain is capable of 10 to the 16th power (a big number) processes per second. Despite being faster than a speeding bullet, etc., the human brain has ” annoying glitches (that) cause us to make questionable decisions and reach erroneous conclusions.”

Bias is something that evaluators deal with all the time. There is desired response bias, non-response bias, recency and immediacy bias, measurement bias, and…need I say more? Isn’t evaluation and aren’t evaluators supposed to be “objective”? That we as evaluators behave in an ethical manner? That we have dealt with potential bias and conflicts of interest. That is where cognitive bias appear. And you might not know it at all. Read the rest of this entry »


KASA. You’ve heard the term many times. Have you really stopped to think about what it means? What evaluation approach you will use if you want to determine a difference in KASA? What analyses you will use? How you will report the findings?

Probably not. You just know that you need to measure KNOWLEDGE, ATTITUDE, SKILLS, and ASPIRATIONS.

The Encyclopedia of Evaluation (edited by Sandra Mathisonsandra mathison) says that they influence the adoption of selected practices and technologies (i.e., programs). Claude Bennett Claude Bennett uses KASA in his TOP model  Bennett Hierarchy.I’m sure there are other sources. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed Under (criteria, program evaluation) by Molly on 08-10-2015

First, let me say that getting to world peace will not happen in my lifetime (sigh…) and world peace is the ultimate impact. Everything else is an outcome. It may be a long term outcome, that is a condition change (either social, economic, environmental, or civic), or not. Just because the powers that be use a term doesn’t mean the term is being used correctly!

Then let me say that evaluation is the way to know you got  to that impact…ultimately, world peace. Ultimately. In the mean time, you will need to find approximate (proxy) measures.

Last week, I attended the Engagement Scholarship Consortiumengagement scholarship consortium conference in State College, PA, home of Penn State.penn-state-logo I had the good fortune to see long time friends, meet new people and get a few new ideas. One of the long time friends I was able to visit with was Nancy Franz, Professor Emeritus, Iowa State University. She did a session called “Four steps to measuring and articulating engagement impact”.

Basically she reduced into four steps (hence, the title) program evaluation. And since engagement scholarship is a “program” it needs to be evaluated to make sure it is making a difference. Folks are slowly coming to that idea if the attendance at her session is any indication (full). She used different words than I would have used; I found myself adding parenthetical comments to her words.

I want to share in words what she shared graphically:

  1. In order to be able to conduct these four steps, you need evaluation training, evaluation support, and successful models;
  2. STEP 1: You need to map the intended program (my parenthetical was the “logic model” for which she provided the UWEX web site);
  3. STEP 2: You need to determine what “impact” will be measured (input vs. output);
  4. STEP 3: You need to collect and analyze data (qualitative and quantitative);
  5. STEP 4: You need to tell the story (when, what, so what, now what; the public value);
  6. If you do these four steps she believes that you will enhance paid and volunteer staff performance; increase program quality; and improve impact reporting (be persuasive).

She had a few good suggestions; specifically:

  1. Since most people don’t like to analyze data (because they do not know how?), she holds a data party to look at what was found; and
  2. Case studies have value; use them.
  3. I added, “If you aren’t going to use the data, do not collect it. It only obfuscates the impact.”

Think about what you do when you evaluate a program. Do you do these four steps? Do you know what impact you are trying to achieve? And if you can’t get to world peace, that’s OK. Each step will bring you closer.

my two cents.


Filed Under (program evaluation) by Molly on 17-09-2015 and tagged , , , ,

I’ve been stuck.

I haven’t blogged for three weeks. I haven’t blogged because I don’t have a topic. Oh, I’ve plenty to say (I am never for a loss of words… :) ) I want something to relate to evaluation. Relate clearly. Without question. Evaluation.

So after 5 years, I’m going to start over. Evaluation is an everyday activity!

Evaluative thinking is something you do everyday; probably all day. (I don’t know about when you are a sleep, so I said probably.) I think evaluative thinking is one of those skills that everyone needs to learn systematically. I think everyone learns at least a part of evaluative thinking as they grow; the learning may not be systematic. I would put that skill in the same category as critical (not negative but thoughtful) thinking, team building, leadership, communication skills (both verbal and written), technological facility as well as some others which escape me right now. I would add systematic evaluative thinking.

Everyone has criteria on which decisions are based. Look at how you choose a package of cookies or a can of corn can of corn 2 at the grocery store. What criteria do you use for choosing? Yet that wasn’t taught to you; it was just something you developed. Evaluative thinking is more than just choosing what you want for dinner. AARP lists problem solving as part of the critical thinking skills. I think it is more than just problem solving; I do agree that it is a critical thinking skill (see graphic, from Grant Tilus, Rasmussen College).Core Critical Thinking Skills

So you think thoughtfully about most events/activities/things that you do throughout the day. And you learn over time what works and what doesn’t; what has value and what doesn’t. You learn to discern the conditions under which something works; you learn what changes the composition of the outcome. You begin to think evaluatively about most things. One day you realize that you are critically thinking about what you can, will, and need to do. Evaluative thinking has become systematic. You realize that it depends on many factors. You realize that evaluative thinking is a part of who you are. You are an evaluator, even if you are a psychologist or geologist or engineer or educator first.


my two cents.


I just got back from a road trip across Southern Alabama with my younger daughter.southern alabama We started from Birmingham and drove a very circuitous route ending in Mobile and the surrounding areas, then returned to Birmingham for her to start her second year at Birmingham-Southern College.

As we traveled, I read a book by Bill McKibben (one of many) called Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist. It is a memoir, a personal recounting of the early years of this decade, which corresponded with the years my older daughter was in college (2011-2014). I met Bill McKibben, who, in 2008, is credited with starting the non-profit, 350.0rg, and is currently listed as “senior adviser and co-founder”. He is a passionate, soft-spoken man, who beleives that the world is on a short fuse. He really seems to believe that there is a better way to have a future. He, like Gandhi, is taking a stand.  Oil and Honey puts into action Gandhi’s saying about being the change you want to seegandhi and change. As the subtitle indicates, McKibben is an unlikely activist. He is a self-described non-leader who led and advises the global effort to increase awareness of climate change/chaos. When your belief is on the line, you do what has to be done.

Evaluators are the same way. When your belief is on the line, you do what has to be done. And, hopefully, in the process you are the change that you want to see in the world. But know it cannot happen one pipeline at a time. The fossil fuel industry has too much money. So what do you do? You start a campaign. That is what has done:  “There are currently fossil fuel divestment campaigns at 308 colleges and universities, 105 cities and states, and 6 religious institutions.”(Wikipedia, 350.0rg) (Scroll down to the heading “Fossil Fuel Divestment” to see the complete discussion.) Those are clear numbers, hard data for consumption. (Unfortunately, the  divestment campaign at OSU failed.)

So I see the question as one of impact, though not specifically world peace (my ultimate impact). If there is no planet on which to work for world peace, there in no need for world peace. Evaluators can help. They can look at data critically. They can read the numbers. They can gather the words. This may be the best place for the use of pictures (they are, after all, worth 1000 words).  Perhaps by combining efforts, the outcome will be an impact that benefits all humanity and builds a tomorrow for the babies born today.

my two cents.



Filed Under (criteria) by Molly on 04-08-2015 and tagged

I keep getting comments about my posts “Does this blog make a difference?”

I want to say thank you for all who read it.



I want to say thank you for all who follow this blog.


Mostly, I am continually amazed that people find what I have to say interesting to come back.

So: Thank you. For reading. For following. For coming back.

I think that is making a difference.

my two cents.


P. S. See you in two weeks!

Filed Under (criteria, program evaluation) by Molly on 04-08-2015

The use of the term impact is problematic, as I see it. If you (or any evaluator) are going to have an impact, if your program is going to have an impact, if you are going to do anything other than focus on the outcomes, how will you know? Scriven, in his Thesauras Scriven book cover, says an impact evaluation is an evaluation which focuses on outcomes rather than process, progress (delivery), or implementation. (Is that an example of using the word to define the word?) Is an impact evaluation the same as an evaluation which captures the outcomes? Read the rest of this entry »