My oldest daughter graduated from High School Monday.  Now, she is facing the reality of life after high school–the emotional let down, the lack of structure; the loss of focus.  I remember what it was like to commence…another word for beginning.  I think I was depressed for days.  The question becomes evaluative when one thinks of planning, which is what she has to do now.  In planning, she needs to think:  What excites me?  What are my passions?  How will I accomplish the what?  How will I connect again to the what?  How will I know I’m successful?

Ellen Taylor-Powell,  former Distinguished Evaluation Specialist at the University of Wisconsin Extension, talks about planning on the professional development website at UWEX.  (There are many other useful publications on this site…I urge you to check them out.)  This publication has four sections:  focusing the evaluation, collecting the information, using the information, and managing the evaluation.  I want to talk more about focusing the evaluation–because that is key when beginning, whether it is the next step in your life, the next program you want to implement, or the next report you want to write.

This section of the publication asks you to identify what you are going to evaluate, the purpose of the evaluation, who and how they will use the evaluation, what questions you want to answer, what information you need to answer those questions, develop a time-line, and, finally, identify what resources you will need.  I see this as puzzle assembly–one where you do not necessarily have a picture to guide you.  Not unlike a newly commenced graduate–finding a focus is putting together a puzzle.–you won’t know what the picture is, where you are going, until you focus and develop a plan.  For me, that means putting the puzzle together.  It means finding the what and the so what.  It is always the first place to commence.

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