AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

Apr/14

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Jordan Slice on How Being a Creator Informs Being an Evaluator

Greetings to my fellow #DataNerds! My name is Jordan Slice. I am a Research Specialist at Richland One, an urban school district in Columbia, South Carolina. In addition to being a full-time evaluator, I create handmade pieces for my Etsy shop, resliced.

As a handmade business owner, many of the sales I make are custom orders. People really appreciate when something is tailored to meet their needs. The same is true for evaluation stakeholders: your results are much more likely to be appreciated (and used!) if they answer the questions your stakeholders need to know.

Lesson Learned: Whether I’m making a custom purse (that’s one of my bags to the right) or designing a program evaluation, clear communication is key. For example, if a customer sends me her grandfather’s favorite shirt and requests that I make her a purse using the fabric, it is imperative that we come to a clear agreement about the design of the purse before I start constructing. Similarly, when evaluating a program, it is imperative that you consult with the stakeholders before developing your evaluation if you expect the results to be utilized.

Hot Tip: Keep it simple. While you and I may love geek speak, flooding your stakeholders with evaluation jargon may impair their ability to understand your results. Whether you are talking with stakeholders, constructing a presentation, or writing a report, commit to the mantra that less is more. Once I gather my summary in writing, I use a two step revision process. First, I focus on organizing the content for better flow. Second, I put on my minimalist cap and cut out all the excess fluff (usually repetitive statements or unnecessary detail). Before finalizing any report, always ask a colleague (or stakeholder when appropriate) to proof and provide feedback. I employ the same technique when I am building newsletters (Rad Resource: Mail Chimp – free & user-friendly!) or item listings on Etsy.

Rad Resource: Stephanie Evergreen has some really great posts (like this one!) on her blog with tips for creating better visualizations with your data.

Another Hot Tip: Allow yourself time to focus on something creative (even just a daydream) several times a week. This can give your mind the break it needs to process information and improve your focus. Pursue a new hobby or build on an existing interest. You may be surprised at how this new skill can help you grow as an evaluator.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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10 comments

  • Cartoons and Data: the perfect match | resliced by Jordan · August 12, 2014 at 7:10 am

    […] have to admit I’m quite proud of the post I wrote. In fact, that very post is what got me started with blogging – I had so much fun writing it […]

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  • Jordan Slice on LucidChart for Free Flow Chart Construction · AEA365 · June 8, 2014 at 3:15 am

    […] with Richland One, an urban school district in Columbia, South Carolina. Not long ago I wrote an aea365 post about how being a creator informs being an evaluator. As my original post may have made obvious, I’m a very visual person. That being said, I have a […]

    Reply

  • Admin comment by Susan Kistler · April 15, 2014 at 10:56 am

    I had always imagined the evaluator’s toolbox (packed with everything from surveys to tape recorders, calculators to duct tape) to be like the one my grandfather used to have in the basement – big and metal with lots of drawers.

    Now I’m thinking that my toolbox should be a fashionable little upcycled bag. It would be much more appropriate for the current digital age and knowledge economy, less bulky, capable of holding lots of information (and my smartphone), and more portable and malleable, depending on what it needed to hold in a given day.

    Reply

    • Jordan Slice · April 15, 2014 at 2:26 pm

      Oh Susan! You are giving me the BEST idea! I think my next design is going to be made for the new age evaluator! Extra pockets, cushiony-soft fabric to protect your technology and pen holders! The wheels are turning..

      Reply

  • Sarah Kershner · April 15, 2014 at 6:40 am

    Great blog Jordan! I love how you managed to use handbags as a way to describe evaluation! I couldn’t agree more with the “keep it simple” mantra. I have learned that stakeholders often want a one-page summary of findings – not an entire report (even though we WOULD love to write a thesis on all of our wonderful findings). I struggle with this often only because as a fellow #DataNerd, I like to think that ALL the findings are incredibly important and relevant 🙂

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    • Jordan Slice · April 15, 2014 at 2:19 pm

      I’m so glad you like it Sarah! Once all the results are gathered, it’s so hard as an evaluator (and owner of all the data :)) to pick what’s most important to share. What a struggle we have! Who knew keeping it simple could be so hard?!

      Reply

  • Beth DeHart · April 14, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    Jordan, as usual, your insight is dead on! As a non-data-geek, I always appreciate when super smart folk like you take time to carefully listen to my needs. You are also great at being honest about what you can and cannot do, given time, financial, and data constraints. I am so proud to know you, as a professional, a fellow creator, and generally awesome person!

    Reply

    • Jordan Slice · April 15, 2014 at 2:23 pm

      Thank you Beth!! What a thoughtful comment! My sister often makes fun of me because I can be rather blunt sometimes. I always think honesty is the best policy. As an evaluator, my goal is to get you the highest quality product possible. I never want to sacrifice quality for quantity! Being a part of a team led by you as a fellow creative person made the possibilities endless! A little imagination can really push a project to flourish! Keep on keepin on Beth!

      Reply

  • Admin comment by Susan Kistler · April 14, 2014 at 7:02 am

    Love the bag Jordan – really cute!

    Your note about geek speak resonated with me. Evaluators can get pretty caught up in abbreviations and acronyms, somewhat obscure methodological references, and even just an obsession with wanting to ensure that every detail is shared. I’ve been guilty of building a forest so thick you can’t see a redwood never mind an important insight in the mix. I appreciate the reminder.

    Reply

    • Jordan Slice · April 14, 2014 at 8:09 am

      Thank you Susan! I still struggle with limiting my geek speak. I have a strong desire to be transparent as an evaluator so I often find myself wanting to share every little detail. Balancing transparency with stakeholder comprehension is tough! I’m still figuring it out!

      Reply

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