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

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Hey ya’ll (I’m from Kentucky), I’m Kevin Flora, the owner of EdMatics. I am a doctoral student at the University of Kentucky in the Interdisciplinary program of Educational Studies.  Essentially, I am less than two years away from being out of school and permanently in a career.

Rad Resource – EdMatics: The EdMatics blog is focused on data visualization and informatics issues within the field of education.  The scope is beginning to broaden as my interests, skills, and knowledge base grows.   The content may focus on evaluating visualization one day and displaying best practices the next.  The blog is also host to my portfolio (as small as it is), along with current research projects that I am involved in right now.  If you would like to be a guest contributor to EdMatics, please contact me and express your interest.  Again, I am looking to broaden the scope of the blog, so I would love to hear about your possible contributions!

Hot Tips – favorite posts: The blog is still young, but the interest level is increasing on a daily basis.  Visualization and Informatics has not been explored heavily in the field of education, making for a “carve-my-own-trail” kind of experience.  Here are 3 of my favorite posts to date:

  • 11/29/2012 – Smart Tagging: My newest project focuses on helping the field of education conduct quicker searches for content related to specific needs.  The post discusses more details pertaining to this project and will follow with a research agenda and implementation.
  • 10/26/2012 – Infographics: Fad of Our Times?: I’ve remained skeptical of infographics from day one, but I’ve started asking the tough questions… am I wrong, or are infographics a fad of our times?
  • 5/17/2011 – Enriched Environments for Students: This post looks at the future of enriched environments for students and the intersection with data visualization.

Lessons Learned – why I blog: EdMatics is a blog that is essentially a professional journal of ideas, thoughts, research, and projects.  Information is added to the blogosphere in order to attract deep thinking, build collaboration, and shift mindsets into a new area within education.  The audience ranges from current K-12 educators to world-renown visualization specialists.  I blog because I love to share and hear other’s ideas.  I love generating new thoughts around an area of interest.  Blogging is a bridge in which I meet new people, acquire consulting work, and keep in touch with my peers through content and knowledge sharing.

Lessons Learned – what I’ve learned: The success of a blog entry should not be based on the number of readers, subscribers, or comments.  The success is based off of the development of one idea, or one new relationship, one thought that has a bigger impact than on myself.

This winter, we’re continuing our series highlighting evaluators who blog. 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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My name is Melissa Cater, and I am an assistant professor and evaluation specialist at Louisiana State University AgCenter. I also coordinate and contribute to the eXtension Evaluation Community of Practice (Eval CoP) blog.

Rad Resource – eXtension Evaluation Community Blog: The Eval CoP blog is a resource for evaluators of all levels from novice to expert. Content covers the basics of designing and conducting evaluations. It also centers on practical ideas for evaluating programs in nonformal educational settings like Cooperative Extension, libraries, and museums, just to name a few. Our blog is relatively new with content posted one to four times each month on Friday.

Hot Tips – favorite posts: Two recent series of posts focused on survey design and social media evaluation. Here is a sample of posts from those series:

Lessons Learned – why I blog: As professional development needs increased and travel dollars decreased, I found myself turning to more informal types of professional development. Blogs quickly became my favored means of learning. I appreciated the anytime, anyplace access to learning. The more I learned, the more I felt the need to give back to our field through blogging. As our Cooperative Extension evaluation community of practice evolved, our group has embraced the flexibility the blog provides for connecting with colleagues through shared work and a shared product.

Lessons Learned – what I’ve learned: Blogging is hard work. Early lessons I learned were to generate content ideas for several months at a time, to set aside a specific time and day of the week to work on the blog, and to create a system for engaging and following up with contributors.

This winter, we’re continuing our series highlighting evaluators who blog. 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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Greetings! I’m Ann Emery from Innovation Network in Washington, DC.

Rad Resource – Emery Evaluation: Like many evaluators, I wear several hats – full-time evaluation consultant, part-time research methods graduate student, and 24/7 data nerd. My blog weaves these roles together:

  • I blog about my adventures as a nonprofit and foundations evaluator.
  • I share data files and preliminary results from research projects, like this evaluation use survey.
  • I’ve collected guest posts from more than 15 colleagues.
  • I’ve created more than 30 video tutorials, Excel for Evaluators.

Hot Tips – favorite posts: My most popular posts share resources, start conversations, and tell stories:

Lessons Learned – what I’ve learned: Want to write a great blog post? The best posts are short and sweet (not a full manifesto); contain photos, graphs, links, or embedded videos; and end with discussion questions so readers can respond with their own ideas.

Lessons Learned – why I blog: My reasons have evolved over time. I was initially inspired by Chris Lysy’s Ignite presentation about why evaluators should blog and the 2011 Bloggers Series on aea365. And, I simply needed more space – I couldn’t fully express myself in 140-character tweets @AnnKEmery any longer! Now, I blog to educate other evaluators (through my tutorials) and to educate myself (by collecting guest posts from different viewpoints).

Lessons Learned – why you should blog: Blogging makes you a better communicator (and, therefore, a better evaluator). I’ve also talked to evaluators whose blogs have led to invitations to write magazine articles, join committees, participate in podcasts, speak on panels, and turn their blog posts into a published book. Who knew that 400 words could open so many doors?

Lessons Learned – hesitant to start blogging? Most evaluators are concerned that blogging will be time-consuming. So, I conducted some super-serious research to test this hypothesis. Results indicate that, yes, it takes one million hours to write your first blog post. But, with practice, you’ll be writing blog posts in an hour or less. Stick with it!

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This winter, we’re continuing our series highlighting evaluators who blog. 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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Hello all, I’m Kim Firth Leonard, American Evaluation Association (AEA) member since 2008, and President of local affiliate OPEN, the Oregon Program Evaluators Network. I currently work at Marylhurst University in Portland, Oregon, primarily on assessment of student learning and academic programs, though I also dabble in institutional research. I also do contract work in program evaluation via Leonard Research and Evaluation LLC.

Rad Resource – actionable data: I started the blog actionable data in 2011 and post somewhat regularly (a few times per month whenever possible) with a handful of friends and co-authors. The blog advocates for the collection of meaningful and useful data, and for wise use of that data. Our posts span a range of topics often related to program evaluation, though most focus more specifically on data and data use.

Hot Tips – favorite posts: Here are a few mostly recent, favorite and/or most visited posts authored by yours truly so far:

Clipped from http://actionabledata.wordpress.com/

Lessons Learned – why I blog: For me, blogging is an opportunity to question, explore, and learn as well as to share what I know. To think together with my co-authors and anyone willing to read (and comment) along with us! A ‘manifesto’ for actionable data is here.

I also ‘micro blog’ on Twitter (@KimFLeonard), which has been a wonderful way to engage others with my blog and to find people who are doing interesting work. Between the blog and Twitter, I have discovered many wonderful resources and connected to other great evaluators (including Sheila B. Robinson, who is graciously co-authoring a series of posts with me).

Lessons Learned – what I’ve learned: How liberating and enlightening it can be to throw an idea online. Or to ponder something ‘out loud.’ And that blogging, especially when accompanied by conversation via social media, can be an amazing networking and learning tool.

This winter, we’re continuing our series highlighting evaluators who blog. 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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Hi everyone, my name is Brian Hoessler and I am an independent consultant in Saskatoon, Canada. Through my company, Strong Roots Consulting, I work with non-profit organizations and community-based initiatives to build their capacity through research, strategic planning, and evaluation.

Rad Resource – Strong Roots blog: The website for Strong Roots is also home to my professional blog, which I use to share ideas, resources, and news with the non-profit community in and beyond Saskatoon. It also provides a behind-the-scenes look at the ongoing development of my consulting business, having just started it this past July.

Lessons Learned – why I blog: My reasons for blogging include a bit of everything – sharing tips and resources, demonstrating my knowledge and skills to a new community (I’ve been in Saskatoon for less than a year), and supporting my own professional development. As someone new to the consulting field who is just becoming comfortable with the term “evaluator”, I also use my blog as a space to reflect on my practice and think about directions to take.

Hot Tips – favorite posts:

  • When Does It End? – This post demonstrates how connecting with an online community of bloggers can lead to fruitful thinking. A post by Chris Lysy at freshspectrum (via EvalCentral) prompted me to write about how a dose of evaluative thinking can help determine when a program is failing, even if things look good on the surface.
  • En Route – A demonstration of how I think through writing, in this case a reflection on the term “evaluator” and how I identify (or not) with the field.
  • AEA Conference Day 1 – When I attended my first AEA conference this past October in Minneapolis, I decided to post daily to share new ideas, resources, and personal insights. It was sometimes difficult to find the energy to write after a long day of workshops and sessions, but I’m glad that I kept it up!

Lessons Learned – what I’ve learned: I’ve found it useful to keep a couple of drafts or expanded outlines at hand – sometimes I’ll come up with an idea for a post but don’t feel like writing it out right then and there, or I’m in the mood for stringing words together but have nothing pressing to write about. Breaking the blogging process into two parts, idea generation and writing, can help lessen the anxiety of seeing that blank page!

This winter, we’re continuing our series highlighting evaluators who blog. 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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I’m Gail Barrington, President of Barrington Research Group, Inc. I would never describe myself as an early adopter, especially when it comes to technology, so the fact that I am even writing this blog is amazing! After I finished my book, Consulting Start-up and Management: A Guide for Evaluators and Applied Researchers, I still had a lot to say, and blogging seemed the best way to reach out. My blog is written for evaluators, applied researchers, and students who have begun or are considering a career as an independent consultant.

Rad Resource – The Barrington Research Group Blogbarrington

Hot Tips – favorite posts:

I have written seven blogs to date with more in the pipeline. My favorites are:

Lessons Learned:

Why I blog: Providing research services in a business context presents unique challenges and I try to address these in my blog. Because I also want to have a little writing fun, every fifth blog is a continuing coffee shop dialogue by a cast of consulting characters (#5 Do I Have What It Takes to Be a Consultant). Stay tuned.

Blogging frequency: I write one blog a month. This may not seem like much but what scares me the most about blogging is its immediacy. My initial thoughts aren’t that interesting. I need time to interpret, expand, reflect, and revise them until they are ready to publish. This takes me about a week.

Planning topics: I have a running list of five topics and set up a file for each. It is easier to begin writing when you don’t have to determine the topic at the last minute.

Using photos: I always missed the visual component when writing technical evaluation reports, so I really enjoy selecting the right photo for each blog. Acting as a visual metaphor or an example, the photo turns each blog into an on-line magazine article.

Content management: I had to learn the content management system for my website in order to post my blogs. People tell me there are easier ways to blog but at least I can now update everything on my site myself and it sure beats paying a web designer. Please send me any thoughts or suggestions you may have about how to improve my blog. I look forward to hearing from you.

This winter, we’re continuing our series highlighting evaluators who blog. 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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Hello! I’m Eric Sarriot and I am the Director of the Center for Design and Research in Sustainability (CEDARS) at ICF International. I would like to introduce you to the CEDARS blog, on Sustainable Human and Social Development, its planning and evaluation (definitely within a Global/International Development perspective).

Rad Resource – Sustainable Human and Social Development (http://cedarscenter.blogspot.com/): It’s an ongoing discussion about anything and everything related to taking sustainable health development seriously, and what this changes in the way we ‘do business’ or try to learn. After decades of talking, some say to myself, but mostly to friends and colleagues in the health development community, I’d like to expand the conversation to include anyone interested in complex systems’ evaluations, or simply way to learn to do things differently and better in global development. New content is posted about once or twice a month. More info about CEDARS is here.

Hot Tips – favorite posts: The blog has been operating for over a year now, and has attracted commentary on topics like climate change and adaptation, food security, transition to country ownership and others. A couple of my favorites are:

  • Projects Don’t “Do” Sustainability, Do They? – Trying to advance sustainability, we run into a common criticism: “I like these ideas; it makes sense, and it does or would make sense to our local partners. But really, that’s not how we work. We have 30 to 60 days to write a proposal, then staff up and kickoff a project and get deliverables. When exactly would you introduce those ideas?” This post addresses this question….
  • Emergence of Sustainability in a Complex System – Not just because you can see me on a Youtube video! This post and video link is about a conversation between health and food security evaluation professionals. Panelists discuss how sustainability can be defined and addressed practically in complex adaptive systems.

Lessons Learned – why I blog: I blog because evaluation of sustainability takes the conversation further than single programmatic sectoral and blogging invites more people in. The purpose of the blog is to inform and provoke discussion. It is an outlet for people concerned about the big social development issues of our time and who want to help all of us challenge our practice, whether working in the ‘North’ or the ‘South’.

Lessons Learned – what I’ve learned: You really have to reach beyond your tried and trusted professional network and community in order to learn new things (remember the ‘strength of weak ties?’). That’s also why I’d like to get involved in the AEA Systems in Evaluation TIG. Come and visit CEDARS!

This winter, we’re continuing our series highlighting evaluators who blog. 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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I’m Sheila B. Robinson*, an educator and avid learner who works for Greece Central School District and the University of Rochester. I teach evaluation courses, do some evaluation work, and have recently become a blogger.

Rad Resource – Evaluspheric Perceptions – Reflections of an everyday evaluator/learner/educator exploring the evalusphere: I started in November with each weekly post relating broadly to evaluation. My intent is to share resources, pose questions and encourage dialogue and the exchange of ideas.

Hot Tips – favorite posts:  As of this writing, I have only a few posts, but here are those I’ve most enjoyed composing and that others have clicked on or “liked.”

  • What is the “evalusphere” anyway? I coined the term, so I explain it!
  • Can a dataviz novice become a slide snob? With a growing interest in data visualization, I wrote about registering for Alberto Cairo’s Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), Introduction to Infographics and Data Visualization, suggested a new branch for Alkin and Christie’s Evaluation Theory Tree, and shared an updated PowerPoint slide as evidence of my new learning. In retrospect, this post could have been expanded into three, but that’s one of the many lessons learned as a new blogger.
  • Like an evaluator in a data store… I shared a silly thought about evaluation with fellow blogger Chris Lysy and he drew me a fabulous cartoon with this clever caption.
  • Why Blog? Because I wondered why others blog, I reread 25 posts from the last aea365 Blogger series. Ever the evaluator, I did little analysis and tried out a new tech tool to present my results.

Lessons Learned – why I blog: Honestly…I really don’t know! Perhaps it’s a natural extension of a passion for learning, exploring, and connecting with people, coupled with a love for reading and writing, especially about research and evaluation. In fact, I’ve just met another evaluation blogger with similar interests, and we’re having a great time exchanging ideas to co-author a series of posts we’ll publish on both blogs.

Lessons Learned – what I’ve learned: Like many, I was a reluctant blogger with the same concerns as others. Do I have something to offer? Can I persist and post regularly? Where will I find ideas? Fortunately, I took advice to cast aside my reservations and just begin. One welcome surprise has been the support and encouragement from fellow bloggers. Another is Twitter as a tremendous source of inspiration where those I follow tweet a copious and perpetual stream of articles, blog posts, and pictures.

Hot Tip: Inspiration strikes in the shower, the car, and the middle of the night, and the brain just starts composing. Have a recording device or paper and pen everywhere!

*formerly Sheila Robinson Kohn

This winter, we’re continuing our series highlighting evaluators who blog. 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.

Hi, fellow evaluators! I’m Jess Chandler, a consultant at Energy Market Innovations, a small firm primarily focused on energy efficiency and renewable energy program evaluation.

Rad Resource – jessachandler.com: This blog is a combination of several voices of me, from personal concerns to evaluation methods. The content here has adapted over time and has only recently been more focused on evaluation. I’d also invite folks to check out The Oil Drum and The Energy Collective, two great energy focused blogs that sometimes reflect upon evaluation.

 

Hot Tips – favorite posts: I find that I am more enamored with posts of other evaluators than my own, but here are a few posts that I like:

  • 10/4/2012 – More better Better Evaluation: This is a quick post about the revamped Better Evaluation site. The folks at Better Evaluation are doing great work to collect and distribute evaluation ideas. I also couldn’t resist the opportunity to encourage more front-end work on evaluation.
  • 9/3/2011—A more meaningful regression analysis: This post also redirects readers to another blog, but I love sharing resources like this that can help people. Methods are so necessary!
  • 2/3/2010 – Energy Efficiency Potential: This post considers the value of energy efficiency potential studies, which are critically important, but can be completed prematurely in the planning cycle—I propose a two stage process here. Outside of efficiency, other planning or forecasting exercises may face similar constraints.

Lessons Learned – why I blog: I’m certainly not an example of what I see as an ideal blogger (yet) – someone who consistently posts new and exciting content. I sometimes tweet about something and never remember to update my blog.  I blog because:

  • I love to share great resources with colleagues and friends
  • The outlet is an ideal place to test out ideas and let them gel
  • It provides a record of thoughts over time, and is helpful for reflection on changing ideas

Lessons Learned – what I’ve learned: The big picture: Blogging is real work. However, I have learned that I get about as much out of blogging as I put in. I love to hear from people who are interested in my tweets and blog posts.

This winter, we’re continuing our series highlighting evaluators who blog. 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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Hey there!  I’m Robert Medina, Program Manager for the Aspen Institute’s Advocacy Planning and Evaluation Program, a consulting group based in Washington, DC.

Rad Resource – So What? Your Weekly Guide to Advocacy with Impact: Most evaluators would agree that all data isn’t necessarily useful data.  To understand the distinction—between what’s valuable and what’s not, what should be measured and what doesn’t need to be—we like to ask that pesky question, “so what?”  It’s in that spirit that I blog each Friday.

Every week I write about research, news and cool resources related to advocacy and social change evaluation for an audience of advocates, evaluators, funders and others in the civil society sector.  Curious?  Sign up to receive new posts (just three short items) fresh off my keyboard.

 

Hot Tips – favorite posts: Here are five of my favorites.

  • Building capacity: We frequently tell advocates and funders that building advocacy capacity is just as important as hitting your policy targets.  Soon after the Komen debacle, Planned Parenthood showed exactly why this is the case.
  • Advocacy networks: In June 2012, Professor Jeremy Shiffman stopped by the Institute to talk about his work on global health policy networks.  I discuss how he evaluates the potential effectiveness of these advocacy networks based on issue characteristics, the socio-political environment and network-specific factors.
  • Telenovela advocacy: Ok, I admit it—I love telenovelas.  The more melodramatic, the better.  Fortunately, millions around the world agree with me.  So why not use this hugely popular medium to promote social issues, like education and HIV/AIDS prevention?  The Population Media Center and others conducting media-driven advocacy know it can work.
  • Social network analysis: In its October 2012 issue, the American Journal of Evaluation published a study looking at the functioning of advocacy coalitions using social network analysis.  Sure, this kind of quantitative methodology is far from a silver bullet.  However, it may help advocacy evaluators better understand the complexity of their target ecosystem.
  • A very bad mammoth: ‘Cause we all need a good laugh at least once a day.  And who doesn’t enjoy a fantastical story—with witches and a very bad mammoth—as told by a child…in French?  Much of advocacy is about weaving narratives, after all.

Lessons Learned – why I blog: “So What?” aims to contribute to the growing advocacy evaluation field.  While we do feature research findings, innovative methodologies, and evaluation theories every now and then, our blog is far from academic.  I regularly do deep dives into blogs, newspapers and program websites in search of nuggets of wisdom (sometimes mammoth-sized) that our readers may find useful, interesting, and funny too.

Lessons Learned – what I’ve learned: Be brief.  ‘Nuff said.

This winter, we’re continuing our series highlighting evaluators who blog. 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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