Having just returned from the annual AEA conference (Evaluation 2014) in Denver, I am taking this moment to reflect, process, and apply.front range of the rocky mountains

For years my criteria for a “good” conference was the following

  • See three long time friends and spend some time catching up;
  • Meet three people I didn’t know before and would like to continue to know;
  • Get three new ideas that I can use.

I think this year’s conference was a success (despite the difficulty in identifying who was doing what when because the management corporation minimized the program in an attempt to be ecological, if excluding). If I were to ask my daughters to rate the conference on a scale of one (1) to 10 (ten), one being not “good”, 10 being “good”, I think they would have said an 8 – 8.5. (They have their own following of friends and their own interests.)

I saw and talked to three long time friends, although I missed those who have chosen not to attend AEA any more (I must be getting old) and those with whom I didn’t spend time.

I met more than three people I didn’t know before and I must say, if they are any indication (and I think they are) of the evolution of the association, the association is in good hands (even though I miss the intimacy I “grew up with”).

Most importantly, I did get at least three new ideas.

  • Competencies competency 2 is a topic that evokes a lot of discussion both pro and con. One cannot talk about accreditation, certification, and credentialing without talking about competencies competencies (the skills and knowledge that make evaluators distinct).
  • Blogging is challenging. (I keep at it, even though.) Folks who blog about evaluation are a special lot. Blogging is probably no easy task; blogging on evaluation is challenging. It is one way to get ideas “out there”. Chris Lysy chris lysy (one of those folks I finally actually met–he is the cartoon guy) says it so eloquently in his blog post on Freshspectrum. He says it helps him stay connected with colleagues all year. He uses the metaphor of analog vs. digital (read his post). Being in the digital world is definitely challenging for a digital immigrant like me. Still I blog.
  • I thought I knew a lot about focus groups (and I do). Yet I learned new things from Michelle Revels Revels_Michelle in her session on Focus Group  Research. Although she talked about using focus groups for collecting  research data, focus groups are a wonderful tool for gathering qualitative data for evaluation questions, too.
  • Certainly, my thinking and knowledge about needs assessments (needs as a noun, not verb) was increased. I think the fallacy is that too many people want to get it done quickly and don’t think of strengths of the target audience. Every time I do a professional development session on needs assessment with my long time friend and colleague, Jim Altschuld altschuld, I learn something about the process. This year was no different. (I really must finish his new book…)

There were other things which I have used in the last three days, for sure, and although they need to be mentioned, I’ve exceeded my self-imposed limit of 500 words.

If you went to AEA, let me know what you thought. Did you have a good conference? If so, what did you learn?

my two cents.

molly.

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