I was reading a blog post by Harold Jarche harold jarche who stated that “Donald Taylor notes that, ‘everyone has a memory that is particularly attuned to learning some things very easily’. In his post, Donald says that the context in which learn something, as well as how it is presented and received, are all important aspects of whether we will remember something.”

Jennifer Greene jennifer greene-2, a long-time colleague currently at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, addresses context when she says, “We all know that the contexts in which our evaluands* take place are inextricably intertwined with the program as envisioned, implemented, experienced, and judged. And regarding this program context, Saville Kushner saville-kushnerhas profoundly challenged us to ask not, “how well are participants doing in the program?” but rather “how well does the program serve, respect, and respond to these participants’ needs, hopes, and dreams in this place?”

Context is related to memory; memory is related to learning. What we learn, when we learn it, how we learn it are all related to context. Context and learning are related. What is the context of your program? Does it do what Kushner advocates? Or is counting “widgets” what is important? Do evaluators really want to know if participants are doing well in this program? OR  Do evaluators want to know what difference was made by the program? What value does the program have for the participants? Can the participants change as a result of the program? And as a result of that change learn something? I think it is the latter. I think that context is important; I think that learning is important. And as Greene says, self-learning is important “because it informs our understanding of our professional selves and thereby the character of our professional practice.” Learning and context is what makes us evaluators.



*Scriven Scriven says in his Thesaurus Scriven book cover  that an evaluand is a “generic term for what ever is being evaluated”. He gives examples as person, performance, program, proposal, product, possibility; I add policy.


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