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

Jan/11

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Amy Germuth on Reporting Findings

AEA365 began on January 1, 2010. Before we promoted this resource, we reached out to dedicated authors who believed in the project in order to populate the site with starter content. Those who contributed in week 1 wrote for an audience of fewer than 10. One year later we have over 1500 subscribers and are re-posting the contributions from those trailblazers in order to ensure that they receive the readership they deserve for their great ideas – Amy was kind enough to update hers for 2011!

My name is Amy A. Germuth,  and I am Founder and President of EvalWorks, LLC (http://EvalWorks.com) in Durham, NC and blog at EvalThoughts.com. Over the last year I have worked improving my reporting of findings to better meet my client’s needs and have a few great resources to help you do the same.

Rad Resource: “Unlearning Some of our Social Scientist Habits” by Jane Davidson (independent consultant and evaluator extraordinaire, as well as AEA member and TIG leader). She added some additional thoughts to this work and presented them at AEA’s 2009 annual conference in Orlando. Her PowerPoint slides for this presentation can be found at: http://bit.ly/7RcDso.

Frankly, I think this great article has been overlooked for its valuable contributions. Among other great advice for evaluators (including models or theories but not using them evaluatively and leaping to measurement too quickly), she addresses these common pitfalls when reporting evaluation findings: (1) not answering (and in some cases not even identifying!) the evaluation questions that guided the methodology, (2) reporting results separately by data type or source, and (3) ordering evaluation report sections like a Master’s thesis. This entertaining article and the additional PowerPoint slides really make a case for using the questions that guide the evaluation to guide the report as well.

Rad Resource: The “Evaluation Report Checklist” by Gary Miron (professor at Western Michigan University and former Chief of Staff at The Evaluation Center at WMU) provides a great outline of the eight main sections in an evaluation report (Title page, Exec. Summary, Table of Contents, Introduction and Background, Methodology, Results, Summary and Conclusion, References) and the various things that should be included in each.

The author notes that this checklist can be used as a “tool to guide a discussion between evaluators and their clients regarding the preferred contents of evaluation reports and a tool to provide formative feedback to report writers” and can help writers identify the strengths and weaknesses of their report. However, as Gary  notes, evaluation reports differ greatly in terms of purpose, budget, expectations, and needs of the client, thus one may need to consider or weight the checkpoints within sections as well as the relative importance and value of each section when reviewing one’s own writing (or someone else’s).

Rad Resource: Why assume all findings have to be reported as a paper?  Try reporting using PowerPoint and heed the advice Garr Reynold’s provides in his great book “Presentation Zen Design” to ensure that you do not subject your clients to DBP (death by PowerPoint).

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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1 comment

  • Cheryl Kessler · January 10, 2011 at 9:54 am

    Fantastic information, Amy. Thank you! I’ve been struggling with the traditional report format for as long as I’ve been in evaluation! Having recently become an independent consultant, I have been seriously exploring what is relevant reporting with and for my clients. These resources are right on target and support Stephanie Evergreen’s “Why Evaluators Need Graphic Design Skills” at the 2010 AEA Conference in San Antonio.

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