My friend, Susan, who promised instructions on how to use Excel to select a sample, wrote a post on that very topic.
She tells me that using screen shots made providing instructions easier so she posted it in a tutorial. Thank you, Susan, for adding this information. Now there is no reason for not selecting a random sample from your large population. Whether the sample will respond or not is out of your control.
Response rates are another thing, to be covered later.
A reader commented that I need to be attending to my analytics not just reading my comments. Hmmm…
My question is: what do analytics tell me about making a difference–by providing an educational forum that changes people am I making a difference? Keep in mind that I am an evaluator and that the root for the word evaluation is “value”. So I wonder, do the analytics tell me about the merit, worth, value of this educational intervention?
What will the analytics really tell me about the readers? What will the comments tell me that the analytics don’t? Will the analytics tell me what difference this blog has made in the readers. Will analytics tell me about intention to change? How will analytics help me write posts to which more people will respond; make me more of an authority in my posting?
I DO NOT KNOW.
If someone, any one out in cyber space knows the answers (readers?), I’d love to hear from you. I blog weekly; sometimes more than weekly (like this week because, although I had the post written, I didn’t get it posted before I left the office so I posted it when I came back). I check my blog regularly for comments. I approve those which provide thoughtful meaningful responses for other readers as well as for me.
Another reader suggests that I look at the number of readers who have established an RSS feed or established a subscription. Hmmm…Not sure what that will tell me. I’ll talk to the IT folks for an answer to that question.
I would certainly appreciate any thoughts from readers.
The question of surveys came up the other day. Again.
I got a query from a fellow faculty member and a query from the readership. (No not a comment; just a query–although I now may be able to figure out why the comments don’t work.)
After getting a copy of Dillman for your desk, This is what I suggest: Start with what you want to know.
This may be in the form of statements or questions. If the result is complicated, see if you can simplify it by breaking it into more than one statement or question. Recently, I got a “what we want to know” in the form of complicated research questions. I’m not sure that the resulting survey questions answered the research questions because of the complexity. (I’ll have to look at the research questions and the survey questions side by side to see.) Multiple simple statements/questions are easier to match to your survey questions, easier to see if you have survey questions that answer what you want to know. Remember: if you will not use the answer (data), don’t ask the question. Less can actually be more, in this case, and just because it would be interesting to know doesn’t mean the data will answer your “what you want to know” question.
Evaluators strive for evaluation use . (See: Patton, M. Q. (2008). Utilization Focused Evaluation, 4ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.; AND/OR Patton, M. Q. (2011). Essentials of Utilization-Focused Evaluation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.). See also the The Program Evaluation Standards , which lists utility (use) as the first attribute and standard for evaluators. (Yarbrough, D. B., Shulha, L. M., Hopson, R. K., & Caruthers, F. A. (2011). The Program Evaluation Standards: A guide for evaluators and evaluation users (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.)
Evaluation use is related to stated intention to change about which I’ve previously written. If your statements/questions of what you want to know will lead you to using the evaluation findings, then stating the question in such a way as to promote use will foster use, i.e., intention to change. Don’t do the evaluation for the sake of doing an evaluation. If you want to improve the program, evaluate. If you want to know about the program’s value, merit, and worth, evaluate. Then use. One way to make sure that you will follow-through is to frame your initial statements/questions in a way that will facilitate use. Ask simply.
I’ve just read Ernie House’s book, Regression to the Mean. It is a NOVEL about evaluation politics. A publishers review says, “Evaluation politics is one of the most critical, yet least understood aspects of evaluation. To succeed, evaluators must grasp the politics of their situation, lest their work be derailed. This engrossing novel illuminates the politics and ethics of evaluation, even as it entertains. Paul Reeder, an experienced (and all too human) evaluator, must unravel political, ethical, and technical puzzles in a mysterious world he does not fully comprehend. The book captures the complexities of evaluation politics in ways other works do not. Written expressly for learning and teaching, the evaluation novel is an unconventional foray into vital topics rarely explored.”
Many luminaries (Patton, Lincoln, Scriven, Weiss) made pre-publication comments. Although I found the book fascinating, I found the quote that is included attributed to Freud compelling. That quote is, “The voice of the intellect is a soft one, but it does not rest until it has gained a hearing. Ultimately, after endless rebuffs, it succeeds. This is one of the few points in which we can be optimistic about the future of mankind (sic).” Although Freud wasn’t speaking about evaluation, House contends that this statement applies, and goes on to say, “Sometimes you have to persist against your emotions as well as the emotions of others. None of us are rational.”
So how does rationality fit into evaluation. I would contend that it doesn’t. Although the intent of evaluation is to be objective, none of us can be because of what I called personal and situational bias; what is known in the literature as cognitive bias. I contend that if one has cognitive bias (and everyone does) then that prevents us from being rational, try as we might. Our emotions get in the way. House’s comment (above) seems fitting to evaluation–evaluators must persist against personal emotions as well as emotions of others. I would add persists against personal and situational bias. I believe it is important to make explicit the personal and situational bias prior to commencing an evaluation. By clarifying assumptions that occur with the stakeholders and the evaluator, surprises are minimized, and the evaluation may be more useful to program people.
Intention to change
I’ve talked about intention to change and how stating that intention out loud and to others makes a difference. This piece of advice is showing up in some unexpected places and here. If you state your goal, there is a higher likelihood that you will be successful. That makes sense. If you confess publicly (or even to a priest), you are more likely to do the penance/make a change. What I find interesting is that this is so evaluation. What difference did the intervention make? How does that difference relate to the merit, worth, value of the program?
Lent started March 5. That is 40 days of discipline–giving up or taking on. That is a program. What difference will it make? Can you go 40 days without chocolate?
I got my last comment in November, 2013. I miss comments. Sure most of them were check out this other web site. Still there were some substantive comments and I’ve read those and archived them. My IT person doesn’t know what was the impetus for this sudden stop. Perhaps Google changed its search engine optimization code and my key words are no longer in the top. So I don’t know if what I write is meaningful; is worthwhile; or is resonating with you the reader in any way. I have been blogging now for over four years…this is no easy task. Comments and/or questions would be helpful, give me some direction.
Chris Lysy cartoons in his blog. This week he blogged about logic models. He only included logic models that are drawn with boxes. What if the logic model is circular? How would it be different? Can it still lead to outcomes? Non-linear thinkers/cultures would say so. How would you draw it? Given that mind mapping may also be a model, how do they relate?
Warning: This post may contain information that is controversial .
Schools (local public schools) were closed (still are).
The University (which never closes) was closed for four days (now open).
The snow kept falling and falling and falling. (Thank you Sandra Thiesen for the photo.)
Eighteen inches. Then freezing rain. It is a mess (although as I write this, the sun is shining, and it is 39F and supposed to get to 45F by this afternoon).
This is a complex messy system (thank you Dave Bella). It isn’t getting better. This is the second snow Corvallis has experienced in the same number of months, with increasing amounts.
It rains in the valley in Oregon; IT DOES NOT SNOW.
Another example of a complex messy system is what is happening in the UK.
These are examples extreme events; examples of climate chaos.
Evaluating complex messy systems is not easy. There are many parts. If you hold constant one part, what happens to the others? If you don’t hold constant one part, what happens to the rest of the system?. Systems thinking and systems evaluation has come of age with the 21st century; there were always people who viewed the world as a system; one part linked to another, indivisible. Soft systems theory dates back to at least von Bertalanffy who developed general systems theory and published the book by the same name in 1968 (ISBN 0-8076-0453-4).
Evaluating systems is complicated and complex.
Bob Williams, along with Iraj Imam, edited the volume Systems Concepts in Evaluation (2007), and along with Richard Hummelbrunner, wrote the volume Systems Concepts in Action: A Practitioner’s Toolkit (2010). He is a leader in systems and evaluation.
These two books relate to my political statement at the beginning and complex messy systems. According to Amazon, the second book “explores the application of systems ideas to investigate, evaluate, and intervene in complex and messy situations”.
If you think your program works in isolation, think again. If you think your program doesn’t influence other programs, individuals, stakeholders, think again. You work in a complex messy system. Because you work in a complex messy system, you might want to simplify the situation (I know I do); only you can’t. You have to work within the system.
Might be worth while to get von Bertalanffy’s book; might be worth while to get Williams books; might be worth while to get a copy of Gunderson and Holling book Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Systems of Humans and Nature.
After all, nature is a complex messy system.
On February 1 at 12:00 pm PT, I will be holding my annual virtual tea party. This is something I’ve been doing since February of 1993. I was in Minnesota and the winter was very cold, and although not as bleak as winter in Oregon, I was missing my friends who did not live near me. I had a tea party for the folks who were local and wanted to think that those who were not local were enjoying the tea party as well. So I created a virtual tea party. At that time, the internet was not available; all this was done in hard copy (to this day, I have one or two friends who do not have internet…sigh…). Today, the internet makes the tea party truly virtual–well the invitation is; you have to have a real cup of tea where ever you are.
How is this evaluative? Gandhi says that only you can be the change you want to see…this is one way you can make a difference. How will you know?
I know because my list of invitees has grown exponentially. And some of them share the invitation. They pass it on. I started with a dozen or so friends. Now my address list is over three pages long. Including my daughters and daughters of my friends (maybe sons, too for that matter…)
Other ways: Design an evaluation plan; develop a logic model; create a metric/rubric. Report the difference. This might be a good place for using an approach other than a survey or Likert scale. Think about it.
Did you know that there are at least 11 winter holidays besides Christmas–many of them related to light or the return of light.
One needs evaluation tools to determine the merit or worth, to evaluate the holiday’s value to you. For me, any that return light are important. So for me, there is Hanukkah (and eight candles), Solstice (and bonfires and yule logs), Christmas (and Advent wreaths with five candles), Kwanzaa ( and kinara seven candles). Sometimes Diwali falls late in November to be included (it is the ancient Hindu festival of lights that is a movable feast like Hanukkah).
I have celebrations for Hanukkah (I have several menorahs), for Solstice (I have two special candelabra that holds 12 candles–a mini-bonfire to be sure), for Advent/Christmas (I make a wreath each year), and for Kwanzaa (a handmade Kinara). And foods for each celebration as well. Because I live in a multicultural household, it is important that everyone understand that no holiday is more important than any other–all talk about returning light (literal or figurative). Sometimes the holidays over lap–Hanukkah, Solstice, Christmas all in the same week…phew, I’m exhausted just thinking about it. Sometimes it seems hard to keep them separate–then I realized that returning the light is not separate; it is light returning. It is an evaluative task.
So well come the new born sun/son…the light returns. Evaluation continues.
Happy Holidays…all of them!
I’m taking two weeks holiday–will see you in the new year.
I was reminded about the age of this blog (see comment below). Then it occurred to me: I’ve been writing this blog since December 2009. That is 4 years of almost weekly posts. And even though evaluation is my primary focus, I occasionally get on my soap box and do something different (White Christmas Pie, anyone?). My other passion besides evaluation is food and cooking. I gave a Latke party on Saturday and the food was pretty–and it even tasted good. I was more impressed by the visual appeal of my table; my guests were more impressed by the array of tastes, flavors, and textures. I’d say the evening was a success. This blog is a metaphor for that table. Sometimes I’m impressed with the visual appeal; sometimes I’m impressed with the content. Today is an anniversary. Four years. I find that amazing (visual appeal). The quote below (a comment offered by a reader on the post “Is this blog making a difference?”, a post I made a long time ago) is about content.
“Judging just from the age of your blog I must speculate that you’ve done something right. If not then I doubt you’d still be writing regularly. Evaluation of your progress is important but pales in comparison to the importance of writing fresh new content on a regular basis. Content that can be found no place else is what makes a blog truly useful and indeed helps it make a difference.”
Audit or evaluation?
I’m an evaluator; I want to know what difference the “program” is making in the lives of the participants. The local school district where I live, work, and send my children to school has provided middle school children with iPads . They want to “audit” their use. I commend the school district for that initiative (both giving the iPads as well wanting to determine the effectiveness). I wonder if they really want to know what difference the electronics are making in the lives of the students. I guess I need to go re-read Tom Schwandt’s 1988 book, “Linking Auditing and Metaevaluation”, a book he wrote with Ed Halpern, as well as see what has happened in the last 25 years (and it is NOT that I do not have anything else to read…). I think it is important to note the sentence (taken from the forward), “Nontraditional studies are found not only in education, but also in…divers fields …(and the list they provide is a who’s who in social science). The problem of such studies is “establishing their merit”. That is always a problem with evaluation–establishing the merit, worth, value of a program (study).
We could spend a lot of time debating the merit, worth, value of using electronics in the pursuit of learning. (In fact, Jeffrey Selingo writes about the need to personalize instruction using electronics in his 2013 book “College (Un)bound”–very readable, recommended.) I do not think counting the number of apps or the number of page views is going to answer the question posed. I do not think counting the number of iPads returned in working condition will either. This is an interesting experiment. How , reader, would you evaluate the merit, worth, value of giving iPads to middle school children? All ideas are welcome–let me know because I do not have an answer, only an idea.
For the first time in my lifetime the first day of Hanukkah is also Thanksgiving. The pundits are are sagely calling the event Thanksgivukkah. According to this referenced source, the first day of Hanukkah will not happen again for over 70,000 years. However, according to another source, this overlap could happen again in 2070 and 2165. Although I do not think I’ll be around in 2070, my children could be (they are 17 and 20 of this writing). I find this phenomenon really interesting–Thanksgiving usually starts the US holiday season and Hanukkah falls later, during Advent. Not so this year. I wonder how people combine latkes and Thanksgiving (even without the turkey). Loaded latkes? (My appreciation to Kia.)
So I’m sure you are wondering, HOW EXACTLY DOES THIS RELATE TO EVALUATION?
I decided that it was time to revisit my blog title, Evaluation is an Everyday Activity. Every day you evaluate something. Although you do not necessarily articulate out loud the criteria against which you are determining merit, worth, and value, you have those criteria. I have them for latkes AND Thanksgiving. Our latkes must be crispy; of winter vegetables including potatoes. This allows me to use a variety of winter vegetables I may have gotten in my CSA. (Beet latkes? Sweet potato latkes? Celeriac latkes? You bet!) Our Thanksgiving is to have foods for which we are truly thankful. That allows us to think about gratitude. Each year our menu is different because each year we are thankful for different things. (I must confess, however, we always have pie–pumpkin, which I make from home grown pumpkin/squash, and chocolate pecan, which is an original old family recipe.) One year when we put all the food on the table, all the food was green. We didn’t plan it that way; it just happened because they were foods for which we were thankful. This year, we will have mashed potatoes (by the Queen of mashed potatoes), Celebration Filo, both the gluten-free (made with rice wrappers and no onion, garlic, or dairy) and glutened versions (the version which we renamed and is in the link above), and something else that will probably be green. This year I’m thankful for my gluten-free; dairy-free friend who will join us for Thanksgiving and I’m working up alternatives to accommodate her and still satisfy the rest of us.
So you see, even when I’m thinking about Thanksgiving, latkes, and gratitude, I’m thinking about evaluation. What merit does the “program” have? What is its worth? What is its value? Those are all evaluative questions that apply to Thanksgiving (and latkes and gratitude).
So you see, Evaluation is an Everyday Activity.