For years my criteria for a “good” conference was the following
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”). Read the rest of this entry »
Recently, I drafted a paper about a capacity building; I’ll be presenting it at the 2014 AEA conference. The example on which I was reporting was regional and voluntary; it took a dedication, a commitment from participants. During the drafting of that paper, I had think about the parts of the program; what would be necessary for individuals who were interested in evaluation and had did not have a degree. I went back to the competencies listed in the AJE article (March 2005) that I cited in a previous post. I found it interesting to see that the choices I made (after consulting with evaluation colleagues) were listed in the competencies identified by Stevahn et al., yet they list so much more. So the question occurs to me is: To be competent, to build institutional evaluation capacity are all those needed? Read the rest of this entry »
This summer I spent a lot of time dealing with needs assessments and talking about needs and assets. It occurred to me that the difference between need and wants has a lot to do with evaluation (among other things). So what are needs? What are wants? How does all this relate to evaluation?
Maslow spoke eloquently about needs in his hierarchy, and although the hierarchy is often presented as a pyramid, Maslow didn’t present the needs this way. He did present this hierarchy as a set of building blocks with basic needs (physiological) as the foundation, followed by safety, loving/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. He talks about this theory of motivation in his book, Motivation and Personality (a 3rd edition is available as well). This view of the individual ushered in the humanistic view of psychology (often called the third theory after behaviorism and psychoanalysis). He believed that human could not live without these needs and advocated that they are necessary for survival.
A “want” is often considered a desire based purely in economic, social, or psychological reality of human existence. It is something that an individual would like to have. (Chocolate, any one?) A want is not essential to human existence; it is only something an individual would like to have. Unfortunately, there are limited resources (as well as a large body of literature) talking about having enough. If you have enough, then wants are few and resources are available for everyone.
“Humans are social animals for good reason. Without collaboration, there is no survival. It was not possible to defeat a Woolley Mammoth, build a secure structure, or care for children while hunting without a team effort. It’s more true now than then. Our reliance on each other grows as societies became more complex, interconnected, and specialized. Connection is a prerequisite for survival, physically and emotionally.”
This statement, which I found on Harold Jarche ‘s blog, applies to evaluation as much as it applies to the example provided by Psychology Today.
Evaluation is a collaborative effort; a team effort, a social effort. Without the collaboration, evaluation lacks much. I’m not sure that survival is dependent on evaluation and collaborative effort; perhaps. The evaluator may know all about evaluation and yet not be able to solve the problem presented by the client because the evaluator doesn’t know about the topic needing to be evaluated. The evaluator may know about something similar to and different from what the client needs and yet, not know about the specific problem. Let me give you an example.
I’ve done a lot of evaluation in the natural resources area and as a result, I’ve learned much about various natural resource topics, including horticulture, plant science, crop science, marine science. I do not know much about potatoes. A while back, a colleague called me and asked if I could/would serve as the evaluator on a ZEBRA CHIP project. Before I said, Sure, I asked about ZEBRA CHIP. Apparently, it is a potato disease transmitted by bacteria carrying psyllid that is causing much economic devastation among growers. It shows up best when the potatoes are made into chips (hence the name). It looks like this: . To me, it isn’t particularly stripped like the animal which offers its name, yet it doesn’t look like potato chips I’m used to seeing. I”m told that there is an unpleasant flavor to the chips as well. I knew a lot about growing things, not about potatoes, even though I’ve worked with potato growers before, just not about this disease.
So, I said sure, only to discover that I have 11 lines in which to write a cogent evaluation section for the work that Extension will be doing (if the grant is funded). If the grant is funded, it will be a five year effort. A continuation actually, which brings me full circle–a collaboration of multiple universities, multiple disciplines, multiple investigators. So what could I say cogently in 11 lines? I suggested that perhaps looking at intention and confidence would be appropriate because we (remember, I said, “Sure”) would not be able to measure actual behavior change. And to overcome the psyllids and eradicate this problem (not unlike the spotted wing drosophila which is affecting the soft fruits of the NW, specifically blueberries), we would need to get as close to behavior change as possible once the teaching has occurred. How can social media be used here? Good question–something to explore. At what level of Maslow’s hierarchy is this collaboration? Survival, sure. Somehow I don’t think Maslow was focused on economic survival.
Within the last 24 hours I’ve had two experiences that remind me of how tenuous our connection is to others.
Wikipedia says the phrase of “dog days” refers to the sultry (read: HOT) days of summer, typically July and August in the northern hemisphere. In Oregon, it is definitely August. It was 100.4 yesterday; 96 the day before. I didn’t sleep well, even with fans and cool evenings (low 60s). This is the hottest summer I’ve experienced in the 16 years I’ve been in Oregon–there were 10 days of hot weather in May, June, and July; and now so far in August. The Dog days are also when the star Sirius can be seen (assuming there is no cloud cover, a common phenomenon in Oregon–if not the winter rainy season, then summer thunderstorms.) Dog days were thought to be when “the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man (sic), among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies.” according to Brady’s Clavis Calendaria, 1813 (A Compendious Analysis of the Calendar; Illustrated with Ecclesiastica, Historical, and Classical Anecdotes 2 volumes). Read the rest of this entry »
What? So what? Now what?
Sounds like an evaluation problem.
King and Stevahn (in press) tells us the first query requires thoughtful observation of a situation; the second query a discussion of possible options and implications of those options, and the third query calls for the creation of a list of potential next steps.
Yet these are the key words for “adaptive action” (If you haven’t looked at the web site, I suggest you do.) One quote that is reflective of adaptive action is, “Adaptive Action reveals how we can be proactive in managing today and influencing tomorrow.”( David W. Jamieson, University of St. Thomas). Adaptive action can help you
Evaluation is a proactive (usually) activity (oh, I know that sometimes evaluation is flying by the seat of your pants and is totally reactive). People are now recognizing that evaluation will benefit them, their programs, and their organizations and that it isn’t personal (although that fear is still out there).
Although the site is directed towards leadership in organizations, the key questions are evaluative. You can’t determine “what” without evidence (data); you can’t determine “so what” unless you have a plan (logic model), and you can’t think about “now what” unless you have an outcome that you can move toward. These questions are evaluative in contemporary times because there are no simple problems any more. (Panarchy approaches similar situations using a similar model .) Complex situations are facing program people and evaluators all the time. Using adaptive action may help. Panarchy may help (the book is called Panarchy by Gunderson and Hollings .)
Just think of adaptive action as another model of evaluation.
Many of you have numerous lists for summer reading (NY Times, NPR, Goodreads, Amazon, others…). My question is what are you reading to further your knowledge about evaluation? Perhaps you are; perhaps you’re not. So I’m going to give you one more list …yes, it is evaluative.
If you want something qualitative: Qualitative Data Analysis by Matthew B. Miles, A. Michael Huberman, and Johnny Saldana. It is the new 3rd edition which Sage (the publisher) commissioned. A good thing, too, as both Miles and Huberman are no longer able to do a revision. My new go-to book.
If you want something on needs assessment: Bridging the Gap Between Asset/Capacity Building and Needs Assessment by James W. Altschuld. Most needs assessments start with what is lacking (i.e., needed); this proposes that an assessment start with what is present (assets) and build from there, and in the process, meeting needs.
If you want something on higher education: College (Un)bound by Jeff Selingo. The state of higher education and some viable alternatives by a contributing editor at the Chronicle of Higher Education. Yes, it is evaluative.
Most of these I’ve mentioned before. I’ve read the above. I recommend them.
Recently I came across some old note of mine, from some meeting several years ago. I though it would be useful in my writing so I saved it; actually there were two notes that were similar in content. They both relate to blogging, although at the time I didn’t know I would be blogging.
I lump them all under the title of taking a stand, although stance would probably be more descriptive.
The notes are these:
The US has been a country for 238 years. A long time. Perhaps it is an opportunity to reflect on what are the rights, privileges, and obligations of citizenship. Perhaps it is just another holiday. Perhaps it is just a time for blueberry pie and peach ice cream. Perhaps it is a…fill in the blank.
I’m not feeling particularly patriotic. I am feeling very evaluative. Recently I viewed a map indicating that on a US passport an individual could travel to 172 different countries. The only country passports which were more powerful (i.e., able to visit more countries) were UK, Finland and Sweden. I wonder to where (what country) can’t I travel on my US passport? That question requires evidence. That is evaluative. I value my US passport. My girls and I travel with them even though driver’s license would be easier. (Being able to fly to Paris at a Read the rest of this entry »