Ann Emery on 10 Things You Didn’t Learn in School
If you recently completed your graduate or undergraduate degree, congratulations! You’ve already learned some of the key elements of evaluation. However, evaluation involves more than theory, methods, and statistical formulas.
Hot Tips: Here are 10 things you probably didn’t learn in school
- Facilitating group discussions. Managing multiple viewpoints will be key to your success. Learn to facilitate staff meetings, board meetings, client meetings, and retreats.
- Teaching. If you’ve already taught college-level courses, you’re ahead of the game. If not, don’t despair. For starters, learn to communicate well with non-evaluators (read John Gargani’s post about jargon) and then adapt to new formats (read Stephanie Evergreen’s post about webinars).
- Adapting to external factors. Universities offer controlled, organized environments. Maybe your program offered a semester-by-semester layout of your courses or a handbook with thesis guidelines. In evaluation, you’ll have to adapt to poor data quality and turbulent political environments.
- Managing people and projects. Get started by reading the book Managing to Change the World and the blog Ask a Manager, both by Alison Green.
- Writing non-APA format reports. Evaluation clients want, and need, a variety of formats – dashboards, memos, fact sheets, brochures, handouts, and verbal presentations. Visit the Data Visualization and Reporting website.
- Giving potent presentations. Check out AEA’s Potent Presentations Initiative to polish your messaging, design, and delivery skills.
- Negotiating (and compromising). You’ll need to determine deliverables, deadlines, and budgets.
- Communicating and resolving conflict within teams. Most grad school programs offer a mix of solo and group work, but in evaluation, you’ll be working within teams, work groups, task forces, and committees on every project. You’ll also be co-authoring papers, co-presenting at conferences, co-directing new initiatives, and co-chairing committees.
- There’s a lot more to evaluation than data analysis. Evaluation is a cycle that involves planning; data collection; analysis and reflection; and action and improvement.
- Getting out from behind your desk. In grad school, you could disappear into the library on a Saturday morning with your coffee cup and textbook and emerge on Saturday night with a completed paper. In evaluation, there may be full days (or weeks!) when you’re away from your desk because you’ll be talking to stakeholders and convening work groups. Gathering input from stakeholders takes time, but designing an evaluation that meets their needs is well worth the effort!
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