I am a social scientist. I look for the social in the science of what I do.
I am an evaluator as a social scientist. I want to determine the merit, worth, value of what I do. I want to know that the program I’m evaluating (or offering) made a difference. (After all, the root of evaluation is value.)
Keeping that in mind has resulted (over the years) in the comment, “no wonder she is the evaluator” when I ask an evaluative question. So I was surprised when I read a comment by a reader that implied that it didn’t matter. The reader said, “The ugly truth is, it does not matter if it makes a difference. Somewhere down the road someone will see your post and may be it will be useful for him.” (Now you must know that I’ve edited the comment, although the entire comment doesn’t support my argument: Evaluators need to know if the program made a difference.)
So the thought occurred to me, what if it didn’t make a difference? What if the program has no value? No worth? No merit? What if by evaluating the program you find that it won’t be useful for the participant? What does that say about you as an evaluator? You as a program designer? You as an end user? Is it okay for the post to be useful “somewhere down the road”? Is blogging truly “a one way channel to transfer any information you have over the web.” How long can a social-scientist-always-looking-at-the-social continue to work when the information goes out and rarely comes back? I do not know. I do know that blogging is hard work. After six and one-half years of writing this blog almost weekly, writer’s block is my constant companion. (although being on a computer, I do not have a pile of paper, just blank screens). So I’m turning to you, readers:
Does it make a difference whether I write this blog or not?
Am I abdicating my role as an evaluator when I write the blog?
I don’t know. Over the years I have gotten some interesting comments (other than the “nice job” “keep up the work” types of comments). I will pause (not in my writing; I’ll continue to do that) and think about this. After all, I am an evaluator wanting to know what difference this program makes.
The Highest Appreciation
– John F. Kennedy
Gratitude must be a habit. Each day needs to be began and ended with gratefulness. Then if you can live by that gratefulness, you will utter the words and be grateful. That is what evaluation is all about–holding to the higher ground. Not just doing something to get it done; doing something (in this case the evaluation) because it is right as you know it today, in this moment, under these circumstances.
Doing evaluation just for the sake of evaluating, because it would be nice to know, is not the answer. Yes, it may be nice to know; does it make a difference? Does the program (policy, performance, product, project, etc.) make a difference in the lives of the participants. As a social scientist, it is important for me to look at the “social” side of what I do; that means dealing with people, the participants, you know the social part. I want to determine what the participants are thinking, feeling, doing. That means, I must walk my talk. And be grateful.
There are lots of resources available that help the nascent evaluator do just that. My recommendation is to start with Jody Fitzpatrick’s volume . I would also check out the American Evaluation Association site. There is a lot of information available to non-members (becoming a member is worth the cost). Then depending on what you specifically want to know, let me know. I’ll suggest references to you.
Alan Rickman died this month. He was an actor of my generation; one that provided me with much entertainment. I am sad. Then I saw this quote on the power of stories. How stories explain. How stories can educate. How stories can help reduce bias. And I am reminded how stories are evaluative.
Dick Krueger did a professional development session (then called a “pre-session”) many years ago. It seems relevant now. Of course, I couldn’t find my notes (which were significant) so I did an online search, using “Dick Krueger and stories” as my search terms. I was successful! (See link.) When I went to the link, he had a whole section on story and story telling. What I remember most about that session is what he has listed under “How to Analyze the Story”. Specifically the four points he lists under problems with credibility:
The next time you tell a story think of it in evaluative terms. And check out what Dick Krueger has to say. Read the rest of this entry »
The US just celebrated Thanksgiving, the annual day of thankfulness. Canada celebrated in mid October (October 12). Although other countries celebrate versions of the holiday, originally the US and Canada celebrated in honor of the previous harvest.
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
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 »
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 here. 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 Mathison) says that they influence the adoption of selected practices and technologies (i.e., programs). Claude Bennett uses KASA in his TOP model .I’m sure there are other sources. Read the rest of this entry »
I just got back from a road trip across Southern Alabama with my younger daughter. 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 see. 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 350.org 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.
Not knowing may be “easier”; you know, less confusing, less intimidating, less fearful, less embarrassing.
I remember when I first asked the question, “Is it easier not knowing?” What I was asking was “By choosing to not know, did I really make a choice, or was it a default position?” Because if you consciously avoid knowing, do you really not know or are you just ignoring the obvious. Perhaps it goes back to the saying common on social media today: “Great people talk about ideas; average people talk about things; small people talk about other people” (which is a variation of what Elanor Roosevelt said). Read the rest of this entry »