What is the difference between need to know and nice to know? How does this affect evaluation? I got a post this week on a blog I follow (Kirkpatrick) that talks about how much data does a trainer really need? (Remember that Don Kirkpatrick developed and established an evaluation model for professional training back in the 1954 that still holds today.)
Most Extension faculty don’t do training programs per se, although there are training elements in Extension programs. Extension faculty are typically looking for program impacts in their program evaluations. Program improvement evaluations, although necessary, are not sufficient. Yes, they provide important information to the program planner; they don’t necessarily give you information about how effective your program has been (i.e., outcome information). (You will note that I will use the term “impacts” interchangeably with “outcomes” because most Extension faculty parrot the language of reporting impacts.)
OK. So how much data do you really need? How do you determine what is nice to have and what is necessary (need) to have? How do you know?
Kirkpatrick also advises to avoid redundant questions. That means questions asked in a number of ways and giving you the same answer; questions written in positive and negative forms. The other question that I always include because it will give me a way to determine how my program is making a difference is a question on intention including a time frame. For example, “In the next six months do you intend to try any of the skills you learned to day? If so, which one.” Mazmaniam has identified the best predictor of behavior change (a measure of making a difference) is stated intention to change. Telling someone else makes the participant accountable. That seems to make the difference.
Mazmanian, P. E., Daffron, S. R., Johnson, R. E., Davis, D. A., & Kantrowits, M. P. (1998). Information about barriers to planned change: A Randomized controlled trail involving continuing medical education lectures and commitment to change. Academic Medicine, 73(8).
P.S. No blog next week; away on business.
Terry Smutlyo sings a song about impact during an outcome mapping seminar he conducted. Terry Smutlyo is the Director, Evaluation International Development Research Development Research Center, Ottawa, Canada. He ought to know a few things about evaluation terminology. He has two versions of this song, Impact Blues, on YouTube; his comments speak to this issue. Check it out.
Just a gentle reminder to use your words carefully. Make sure everyone knows what you mean and that everyone at the table agrees with the meaning you use.
This week the post is short. Terry says it best.
Next week I’ll be at the American Evaluation Association annual meeting in Anaheim, CA, so no post. No Disneyland visit either…sigh
A colleague asks for advice on handling evaluation stories, so that they don’t get brushed aside as mere anecdotes. She goes on to say of the AEA365 blog she read, ” I read the steps to take (hot tips), but don’t know enough about evaluation, perhaps, to understand how to apply them.” Her question raises an interesting topic. Much of what Extension does can be captured in stories (i.e., qualitative data) rather than in numbers (i.e., quantitative data). Dick Krueger, former Professor and Evaluation Leader (read specialist) at the University of Minnesota has done a lot of work in the area of using stories as evaluation. Today’s post summarizes his work.
There are all types of stories. The type we are interested in for evaluation purposes are organizational stories. Organizational stories can do the following things for an organization:
He suggests six common types of organizational stories:
To use stories as evaluation, the evaluator needs to consider how stories might be used, that is, do they depict how people experience the program? Do they understand program outcomes? Do they get insights into program processes?
You (as evaluator) need to think about how the story fits into the evaluation design (think logic model; program planning). Ask yourself these questions: Should you use stories alone? Should you use stories that lead into other forma of inquiry? Should you use stories that augment/illustrate results from other forms of inquiry?
You need to establish criteria for stories. Rigor can be applied to story even though the data are narrative. Criteria include the following: Is the story authentic–is it truthful? Is the story verifiable–is there a trail of evidence back to the source of the story? Is there a need to consider confidentiality? What was the original intent–purpose behind the original telling? And finally, what does the story represent–other people or locations?
You will need a plan for capturing the stories. Ask yourself these questions: Do you need help capturing the stories? What strategy will you use for collecting the stories? How will you ensure documentation and record keeping? (Sequence the questions; write them down the type–set up; conversational; etc.) You will also need a plan for analyzing and reporting the stories as you, the evaluator, are responsible for finding meaning.
I was talking with a colleague about evaluation capacity building (see last week’s post) and the question was raised about thinking like an evaluator. Got me thinking about the socialization of professions and what has to happen to build a critical mass of like minded people.
Certainly, preparatory programs in academia conducted by experts, people who have worked in the field a long time–or at least longer than you starts the process. Professional development helps–you know, attending meetings where evaluators meet (like the upcoming AEA conference, U. S. regional affiliates [there are many and they have conferences and meetings, too], and international organizations [increasing in number--which also host conferences and professional development sessions]–let me know if you want to know more about these opportunities). Reading new and timely literature on evaluation provides insights into the language. AND looking at the evaluative questions in everyday activities. Questions such as: What criteria? What standards? Which values? What worth? Which decisions?
The socialization of evaluators happens because people who are interested in being evaluators look for the evaluation questions in everything they do. Sometimes, looking for the evaluative question is easy and second nature–like choosing a can of corn at the grocery store; sometimes it is hard and demands collaboration–like deciding on the effectiveness of an educational program.
My recommendation is start with easy things–corn, chocolate chip cookies, wine, tomatoes; move to harder things with more variables–what to wear when and where, or whether to include one group or another . The choices you make will all depend upon what criteria is set, what standards have been agreed upon, and what value you place on the outcome or what decision you make.
The socialization process is like a puzzle, something that takes a while to complete, something that is different for everyone, yet ultimately the same. The socialization is not unlike evaluation…pieces fitting together–criteria, standards, values, decisions. Asking the evaluative questions is an ongoing fluid process…it will become second nature with practice.
Although I have been learning about and doing evaluation for a long time, this week I’ve been searching for a topic to talk about. A student recently asked me about the politics of evaluation–there is a lot that can be said on that topic, which I will save for another day. Another student asked me about when to do an impact study and how to bound that study. Certainly a good topic, too, though one that can wait for another post. Something I read in another blog got me thinking about today’s post. So, today I want to talk about gathering demographics.
Last week, I mentioned in my TIMELY TOPIC post about the AEA Guiding Principles. Those Principles along with the Program Evaluation Standards make significant contributions in assisting evaluators in making ethical decisions. Evaluators make ethical decisions with every evaluation. They are guided by these professional standards of conduct. There are five Guiding Principles and five Evaluation Standards. And although these are not proscriptive, they go along way to ensuring ethical evaluations. That is a long introduction into gathering demographics.
The guiding principle, Integrity/Honesty states that “Evaluators display honesty and integrity in their own behavior, and attempt to ensure the honesty and integrity of the entire evaluation process.” When we look at the entire evaluation process, as evaluators, we must strive constantly to maintain both personal and professional integrity in our decision making. One decision we must make involves deciding what we need/want to know about our respondents. As I’ve mentioned before, knowing what your sample looks like is important to reviewers, readers, and other stakeholders. Yet, if we gather these data in a manner that is intrusive, are we being ethical?
Joe Heimlich, in a recent AEA365 post, says that asking demographic questions “…all carry with them ethical questions about use, need, confidentiality…” He goes on to say that there are “…two major conditions shaping the decision to include – or to omit intentionally – questions on sexual or gender identity…”:
The first point relates to gender role issues–for example are gay men more like or more different from other gender categories? And what gender categories did you include in your survey? The second point relates to allowing an individual’s voice to be heard clearly and completely and have categories on our forms reflect their full participation in the evaluation. For example, does marital status ask for domestic partnerships as well as traditional categories and are all those traditional categories necessary to hear your participants?
The next time you develop a questionnaire that includes demographic questions, take a second look at the wording–in an ethical manner.
Three weeks ago, I promised you a series of posts on related topics–Program planning, Evaluation implementation, monitoring and delivering, and Evaluation utilization. This is the third one–using the findings of evaluation.
I’ll try to condense the 400+ page book down to 500+ words for today’s post. Fortunately, I have the Reader’s Digest version as well (look for Chapter 23 [Utilization-Focused Evaluation] in the following citation: Stufflebeam, D. L., Madaus, G. F. Kellaghan, T. (2000). Evaluation Models: Viewpoints on educational and human services evaluation, 2ed. Boston, MA: Kluwer Academic Publishers). Patton’s chapter is a good summary–still it is 14 pages.
To start, it is important to understand exactly how the word “evaluation” is used in the context of utilization. In the Stufflebeam, Madaus, & Kellaghan publication cited above, Patton (2000, p. 426) describes evaluation as, “the systematic collection of information about the activities, characteristics, and outcomes of programs to make judgments about the program, improve program effectiveness and/or inform decisions about future programming. Utilization-focused evaluation (as opposed to program evaluation in general) is evaluation done for and with specific intended primary users for specific, intended uses (emphasis added). ”
There are four different types of use–instrumental, conceptual, persuasive, and process. The interest of potential stakeholders cannot be served well unless the stakeholder(s) whose interests are being served is made explicit.
To understand the types of use, I will quote from a document titled, “Non-formal Educator Use of Evaluation Findings: Factors of Influence” by Sarah Baughman.
“Instrumental use occurs when decision makers use the findings to change or modify the program in some way (Fleisher & Christie, 2009; McCormick, 1997; Shulha & Cousins, 1997). The information gathered is used in a direct, concrete way or applied to a specific decision (McCormick, 1997).
Conceptual use occurs when the evaluation findings help the program staff or key stakeholders understand the program in a new way (Fleisher & Christie, 2009).
Persuasive use has also been called political use and is not always viewed as a positive type of use (McCormick, 1997). Examples of negative persuasive use include using evaluation results to justify or legitimize a decision that is already made or to prove to stakeholders or other administrative decision makers that the organization values accountability (Fleisher & Christie, 2009). It is sometimes considered a political use of findings with no intention to take the actual findings or the evaluation process seriously (Patton, 2008). Recently persuasive use has not been viewed as negatively as it once was.
Process use is the cognitive, behavioral, program, and organizational changes resulting, either directly or indirectly, from engagement in the evaluation process and learning to think evaluatively” (Patton, 2008, p. 109). Process use results not from the evaluation findings but from the evaluation activities or process.”
Before beginning the evaluation, the question, “Who is the primary intended user of the evaluation?” must not only be asked; it also must be answered. What stakeholders need to be at the table? Those are the people who have a stake in the evaluation findings and those stakeholders may be different for each evaluation. They are probably the primary intended users who will determine the evaluations use.
Citations mentioned in the Baughman quotation include:
A faculty member asked me to provide evaluation support for a grant application. Without hesitation, I agreed.
I went to the web site for funding to review what was expected for an evaluation plan. What was provided was their statement about why evaluation is important.
Although I agree with what is said in that discussion, I think we have a responsibility to go further. Here is what I know.
Extension professionals evaluate programs because there needs to be some evidence that the imputs for the program–time, money, personnel, materials, facilities, etc.–are being used advantageously, effectively. Yet, there is more to the question, “Why evaluate” than accountability. (Michael Patton talks about the various uses to which evaluation findings can be put–see his book on Utilization Focused Evaluation.) Programs are evaluated to determine if people are satisfied, if their expectations were met, whether the program was effective in changing something.
This is what I think. None of what is stated above addresses the “so what” part of “why evaluate”. I think that answering this question (or attempting to) is a compelling reason to justify the effort of evaluating. It is all very well and good to change people’s knowledge of a topic; it is all very well and good to change people’s behavior related to that topic; and it is all very well and good to have people intend to change (after all, stated intention to change is the best predictor of actual change). Yet, it isn’t enough. Being able to answer the “so what” question gives you more information. And doing that–asking and answering the “so what” question–makes evaluation an everyday activity. And, who knows. It may even result in world peace.
My wishes to you: Blessed Solstice. Merry Christmas. Happy Kwanzaa. and the Very Best Wishes for the New Year!
A short post today.
When you down load this PDF to save a copy, think of where your values come into the model; where others values can affect the program, and how you can modify the model to balance those values.
Ellen says: “I just wanted to let everyone know that the online logic model course, “Enhancing Program Performance with Logic Models” has been produced as a PDF in response to requests from folks without easy or affordable internet access or with different learning needs. The PDF version (216 pages, 3.35MB) is available at:
Please note that no revisions or updates have been made to the original 2003 online course.
A faculty member asked me how does one determine impact from qualitative data. And in my mail box today was a publication from Sage Publishers inviting me to “explore these new and best selling qualitative methods titles from Sage.”
Many Extension professionals are leery of gathering data using qualitative methods. “There is just too much data to make sense of it,” is one complaint I often hear. Yes, one characteristic of qualitative data is the rich detail that usually results. (Of course is you are only asking closed ended questions resulting in Yes/No, the richness is missing.) Other complaints include “What do I do with the data?” “How do I draw conclusions?” “How do I report the findings?” And as a result, many Extension professionals default to what is familiar–a survey. Surveys, as we have discussed previously, are easy to code, easy to report (frequencies and percentages), and difficult to write well.
The Sage brochure provides resources to answer some of these questions.
Michael Patton’s 3rd edition of Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods “…contains hundreds of examples and stories illuminating all aspects of qualitative inquiry…it offers strategies for enhancing quality and credibility of qualitative findings…and providing detailed analytical guidelines.” Michael is the keynote speaker for the Oregon Program Evaluator Network (OPEN) fall conference where he will be talking about his new book, Developmental Evaluation. If you are in Portland, I encourage you to attend. (For more information, see:
What does all this have to do with a analyzing a conversation? A conversation is qualitative data. It is made up of words. Knowing what to do with those words will provide evaluation data that is powerful. My director is forever saying the story is what legislators want to hear. Stories are qualitative data.
One of the most common forms of conversation that Extension professionals use is focus groups. It is a guided, structured, and focused conversation. It can yield a wealth of information if the questions are well crafted, if those questions have been piloted tested, and the data are analyzed in a meaningful way. There are numerous ways to analyze qualitative data (cultural domain analysis, KWIC analysis, discourse analysis, narrative analysis, grounded theory, content analysis, schema analysis, analytic induction and qualitative comparative analysis, and ethnographic decision models) all of which are discussed in the above mentioned reference. Deciding which will best work with the gathered qualitative data is a decision only the principal investigator can make. Comfort and experience will enter into that decision. Keep in mind qualitative data can be reduced to numbers; numbers cannot be exploded to capture the words from which they came.
Ok–Christmas is over and now is the time to reflect on what needs to be different…self-deception, not with standing. I went looking for something salient to say today and found the following 10 reasons to NOT make new year’s resolutions posted on the Happy Lists (a blog about personal development and positive change for those who love lists found at http://happylists.wordpress.com/)
Do these make sense? Remember–you evaluate everyday.
1. They set you up to fail.
2. Everybody does it.
3. Losing weight should be a whole lifestyle change.
4. January is the wrong reason. T
5. Just make one.
6. There are better ways.
7. Bad economy.
8. No need for reminders.
9. You’re already stressed out enough.
10. They’re probably the same as last year.
I want to suggest one resolution that I’d like you to consider in 2010…one that will succeed…one that makes sense.
Learn one thing you didn’t know about evaluation. Practice it. If you need suggestions about the one thing, let me know (comment on the blog; email me if you want to remain anonymous on the blog; or call me–they all work.)
So if you’ve made some new year’s resolutions, throw them away. Make the changes in your life because you want to.
My wish for you is a wonderful 2010–make some part of your life better than 2009.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!