There are a three topics on which I want to touch today.
- Focus group participant composition
- Systems diagrams
- Evaluation report use
In reverse order:
Evaluation use: I neglected to mention Michael Quinn Patton’s book on evaluation use. Patton has advocated use before most everyone else. The title of his book is Utilization-Focused Evaluation. The 4th edition is available from the publisher (Sage) or from Amazon (and if I knew how to insert links to those sites, I’d do it…another lesson…).
Systems diagrams: I had the opportunity last week to work with a group of Extension faculty all involved in Watershed Education (called the WE Team). This was an exciting experience for me. I helped them visualize what their concept of the WE Team looked like using the systems tool of drawing a systems diagram. This is an exercise whereby individuals or small groups quickly draw a visualization of a system (in this case the WE Team). This is not art; it is not realistic; it is only a representation from one perspective.
This is a useful tool for evaluators because it can help evaluators see where there are opportunities for evaluation; where there are opportunities for leverage; and where there there might be resistance to change (force fields). It also helps evaluators see relationships and feedback loops. I have done workshops on using systems tools in evaluating multi-site systems (of which a systems diagram is one tool) with Andrea Hegedus for the American Evaluation Association. Although this isn’t the diagram the WE Team created, it is an example of what a system diagram could look like. I used the soft ware called Inspiration to create the WE Team diagram. Inspiration has a free 30- day download and it is inexpensive (the download for V. 9 is $69.00).
Focus group participant composition.
The composition of focus groups is very important if you want to get data that you can use AND that answers your study question(s). Focus groups tend to be homogeneous, with variations to allow for differing opinions. Since the purpose of the focus group is to elicit in-depth opinions, it is important to compose the group with similar demographics (depending on your topic) in
- use of program
Comfort and use drive the composition. More on this later.