Recently, I attended the American Evaluation Annual (AEA) conference is San Antonio, TX. And although this is a stock photo, the weather (until Sunday) was like it seems in this photo.  The Alamo was crowded–curious adults, tired children, friendly dogs, etc.  What I learned was that  San Antonio is the only site in the US where there are five Spanish missions within 10 miles of each other.  Starting with the Alamo (the formal name is San Antonio de Valero), as you go south out of San Antonio, the visitor will experience the Missions Concepcion, San Juan, San Jose, and Espada, all of which will, at some point in the future, be on the Mission River Walk (as opposed to the Museum River Walk).  The missions (except the Alamo) are National Historic Sites.  For those of you who have the National Park Service Passport, site stamps are available.

AEA is the professional home for evaluators.  The AEA has approximately 6000 members and about 2500 of them attended the conference, called Evaluation 2010.  This year’s president, Leslie Cooksy, identified “Evaluation Quality”

as the theme for the conference.  Leslie says in her welcome letter, “Evaluation quality is an umbrella theme, with room underneath for all kinds of ideas–quality from the perspective of different evaluation approaches, the role of certification in quality assurance, metaevaluation and the standards used to judge quality…”  Listening to the plenary sessions, attending the concurrent sessions, networking with long time colleagues, I got to hear so many different perspectives on quality.

In the closing plenary, Hallie Preskill, 2007 AEA president, was asked to comment on the themes she heard throughout the conference.  She used mind mapping (a systems tool) to quickly and (I think) effectively organize the value of AEA.  She listed seven main themes:

  1. Truth
  2. Perspectives
  3. Context
  4. Design and methods
  5. Representation
  6. Intersections
  7. Relationships

Although she lists, context as a separate theme, I wonder if evaluation quality is really contextual first and then these other things.

Hallie listed sub themes under each of these topics:

  1. What is (truth)?  Whose (truth)?  How much data is enough?
  2. Whose (perspectives)?  Cultural (perspectives).
  3. Cultural (context). Location (context).  Systems (context).
  4. Multiple and mixed (methods).  Multiple case studies.  Stories.  Credible.
  5. Diverse (representation).  Stakeholder (representation).
  6. Linking (intersections).  Interdisciplinary (intersections).
  7. (Relationships) help make meaning.  (Relationships) facilitate quality.   (Relationships) support use.  (Relationships) keep evaluation alive.

Being a member of AEA is all this an more.  Membership is affordable ($80.00, regular; $60.00 for joint membership with the Canadian Evaluation Society; and $30.00 for full time students).  Benefits are worth that and more.  The conference brings together evaluators from all over.  AEA is quality.

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