Since I’m experiencing serious writers block this week, I thought I’d revisit evaluation as an everyday activity, with a holiday twist.
Keep in mind that the root of evaluation is from the French after the Latin is value (Oxford English Dictionary on line says: [a. Fr. évaluation, f. évaluer, f. é- =es- (: L. ex) out + value VALUE.]).
Perhaps this is a good time to mention that the theme for Evaluation 2011 put forth by incoming AEA President, Jennifer Greene, is Values and Valuing in Evaluation. I want to quote from her invitation letter, “…evaluation is inherently imbued with values. Our work as evaluators intrinsically involves the process of valuing, as our charge is to make judgments (emphasis original) about the “goodness” or the quality, merit, or worth of a program.”
Let us consider the holidays “a program”. The Winter Holiday season starts (at least in the US and the northern hemisphere) with the Thanksgiving holiday followed shortly thereafter by the first Sunday in Advent. Typically this period of time includes at least the following holidays: St. Nicholas Day, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, New Year’s, and Epiphany (I’m sure there are ones I didn’t list that are relevant). This list typically takes us through January 6. (I’m getting to the value part–stay with me…)
When I was a child, I remember the eager expectation of anticipating Christmas–none of the other holidays were even on my radar screen. (For those of you who know me, you know how long ago that was…) Then with great expectation (thank you, Charles), I would go to bed and, as patiently as possible, await the moment when my father would turn on the tree lights, signaling that we children could descend to the living room. Then poof! That was Christmas. In 10 minutes it was done. The emotional bath I always took diminished greatly the value of this all important holiday. Vowing that my children would grow up without the emotional bath of great expectations and dashed hopes, I choose to Celebrate the Season. In doing so, found value in the waiting of Advent, the majic of Hanukkah, sharing of Kwanzaa, the mystery of Christmas and the traditions that come with all of these holidays. There are other traditions that we revisit yearly, yet we find delight in remembering what the Winter Holiday traditions are and mean; remembering the foods we eat; the times we’ve shared. From all this we find value in our program. Do I still experience the emotional bath of childhood during this Holiday Season–not any more–and my children tell me that they like spreading the holidays out over the six week period. I think this is the time of the year where we can take a second look at our programs (whether they are the holidays, youth development, watershed stewardship, nutrition education, or something else) and look for value in our programs–the part of the program that matters. Evaluation is the work of capturing that value. How we do that is what evaluation is all about.