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 »
Recently, I received the following comment: “In today’s world it’s virtually impossible to keep up with facebook, twitter, news, tv, movies email, texts, etc.”
It was in response to a blog post about making a difference. How do you know? Given that most of what was suggested happens in the virtual world, the play on words is interesting. How is it impossible–because there is too much information? because you are too distracted by the virtual part of all the information and get lost? because virtuality it is not clearly understood? because of something else? I personally find I can get lost when I spend all day on line (virtual). It isn’t real, actually. I have no sense of what is happening and what isn’t happening. Even with the feeds from news lines, I find I have to double check my facts. Yet even as I say this, the virtual is expanding (go here). I have heard about Web 2.0; hadn’t heard about IoE (Internet of Everything)…the CEO of Cisco (John Chambers) stated that the IoE depends on the architecture, the systems integration. Is virtual the way of the world? It certainly isn’t the future any more; it is now. I have to ask, though, what about people…Given that much evaluation is now being done with the use of virtual tools, are we really understanding what difference is being made? Or are there just connections?
The individual continued with the comment by saying, “Keep up your small voice. Some are listening.” Those “listening” are certainly reflected in the number of comments I received on the posts about making a difference in the last two days (over 45). This may certainly be a way of engaging; I know it is outreaching. It is only my small voice; it is rewarding to know that some are listening/reading. Even if they only stay a short while.
Had a comment a while back on analyzing survey data…hmm…that is a quandary as most surveys are done on line (see Survey monkey, among others).
If you want to reach a large audience (because your population from which you sampled is large), you will probably use an on-line survey. The on-line survey companies will tabulate the data for you. Can’t guarantee that the tabulations you get will be what you want, or will tell you want you want to know. Typically (in my experience), you can get an Excel file which can be imported into a soft ware program and you can run your own analyses, separate from the on line analyses. Read the rest of this entry »
To quote Annie Leonard, the word sustainability “gets thrown around all the time now and it’s not always clear what is intended.” She goes on to talk about the UN World Commission on Environment and Development definition of sustainable development as “…meeting the needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” That is a good definition, I think. Yet it is missing something which (according to Leonard) are equity and justice. Robert Gilman defines sustainability as “…equity over time”. She says (and I agree), quoting the Center for Sustainable Communities, that sustainability “consider(s) the whole instead of the specific. Sustainability emphasizes relationships rather than pieces in isolation.”
Now, given that evaluation to be effective must look at the whole (here is a good example of when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts); and
given that evaluation works to find out information that will benefit both the current and future generations; and
given that evaluation works to determine what difference was made in people’s lives, it seems to me that there is a relationship here that needs to be acknowledged.
A colleague of mine works in youth development and loves the job. My colleague has to determine the value of the program; the program needs to be evaluated. Yet, if the work is only for the program (i.e., the pieces in isolation) not the whole, what good is it that my colleague loves the job? The relationship between the youth involved and the bigger picture is truly more than can probably be captured in any evaluation. Still, the evaluation needs to be planned to consider that, even if the resources are limited (that is the “probably” above).
So yes, evaluation has something to learn from sustainability. Certainly sustainability can learn from evaluation (and economics, and equity, and ecology…).
I’ve been, once again, getting comments about making a difference. I thought I’d post some of those comments (I’ve copied and pasted comments so the spelling is as it appears in the original text):
…every blog post makes a difference in a way or in another. You can answer at your questions just seeing how many comments are here, how many people are interested in answering you. I think you are a good person, and everything said by a good person is always a life’s lesson to keep in mind. Thank you for every helpful information, good job!
It may be a temporary difference – i.e. limited on the time, but of course that at least for some seconds your writing are touching the life’s of all your readers.
I think the best measure of the effectiveness of a blog are the number of shares it gets, as people that found something useful in it tend to want to share with others.
…I have written quite a bit about this topic and challenge that bloggers face and the bottom line is that you really can’t measure the value. Sure I think asking for responses like you did might help you see a bit of it, but the reality is 99.9% of people will never comment. As such, we as bloggers have to remember that each pageview is a real person who was on our site and who was impacted by what we wrote!
My question: are blogs engaging readers or are they only outreach, even if the blog is read?
P.S. I also got a lot of comments about my analytics post…for next time.
Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development. (1987). NY: UN World Commission on Environment and Development. http://www.un-documents.net/our-common-future.pdf
Gilman, R., Director, Context Institute.
Center for Sustainable Communities is quoted in a variety of places: http://sustainablesonoma.org/keyconcepts/sustainability.html; http://isocs-sustainability.wikispaces.com, among others.
Having just read Harold Jarche’s April 27, 2014 blog, making sense of the network era, about personal knowledge mastery (PKM), I am once again reminded about the challenge of evaluation. I am often asked, “Do you have a form I could use about…?” My nutrition and exercise questions notwithstanding (I do have notebooks of those), this makes evaluation sound like it is routine, standardized, or prepackaged rather than individualized, customized, or specific. For me, evaluation is about the exceptions to the rule; how the evaluation this week may have similarities to something I’ve done before (after all this time, I would hope so…), yet is so different; unique, specific.
You can’t expect to find a pre-made form for your individual program (unless, of course you are replicating a previously established program). Evaluations are unique and the evaluation approach needs to match that unique program specialness. Whether the evaluation uses a survey, a focus group, or an observation (or any other data gathering approach), that approach to gathering data needs to focus on the evaluation question you want answered. You can start with “What difference did the program make?” Only you, the evaluator, can determine if you have enough resources to conduct the evaluation to answer the specific questions that result from what difference did the program make. You probably do not have enough resources to determine if the program led your target audience to world peace; you might have enough resources to determine if the intention to do something different is there. You probably have enough resources to decide how to use your findings. It is so important that the findings be used; use may be how world peace may be accomplished.
There are a few commonalities in data collection; those are the demographics, the data that tell you what your target audience looks like. Things like gender, age, marital status, education level, SES, probably a few other things depending on the program. Make sure when you ask demographic information that a “choose not to answer” option is provided in the survey. Sometimes you have to ask; observations don’t always provide the answer. You need to make sure you include demographics in your survey as most journals want to know what the target audience looked like.
Readers, what makes your evaluations different, unique, special? I’d like to hear about that. Oh and while you are at it…like and share this post, if you do.
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.