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

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Good morning!  I’m Liz Zadnik, aea365’s Outreach Coordinator and Saturday contributor.  Part of my role on the curating team is working with evaluators and researchers interested in generating content for the blog.  Writing for the web is a little different than drafting an evaluation report, policy brief, or peer-review journal article – it requires a slightly more conversational and informal tone.  I’ve pulled together a few tips and resources for folks interested in refining their online-writing style.

Hot Tip: Frontload your information. Basically, put the most interesting or poignant nuggets first.  This is a little different than most of the resources you may usually write – results or findings are typically contextualized first and then outlined later.  Not online.  Blog and website visitors are looking for something – give them what they want.  They’ll peruse a page, scanning for keywords.  If they don’t see what they’re looking for, they’ll leave.  

Lesson Learned: White space is your friend.  Many people equate dense paragraphs with quality – that won’t do for online content!  Embrace patches of white space – throughout the page and also within the content.  “How do I do that?!”  Well, you can use bulleted or numbered lists, images, or line breaks between paragraphs.  Don’t worry if you feel it looks sparse – your readers will thank you!    

Hot Tip: Get active!  With your voice, that is.  Writing for the web is intended to keep the visitor engaged for short period of time.  Folks have something in mind when they visit a site and want to be spoken to directly.  Active voice helps create that atmosphere – it also makes blocks of text for readable and scannable.  

FROM “The participants’ questions were gathered by the meeting facilitator.” (passive)

TO “The meeting facilitator gathered participants’ questions.” (active)

Just to be clear, passive voice isn’t bad.  It has its place in scientific and academic writing.  But blogs and websites are different and should look and sound different.  This style can be difficult to practice at first, but I’ve found it has strengthened my writing both professionally and personally.   

Rad Resources:

  • Usability.gov offers a checklist and more tips on effectively writing for the web.
  • Writing Spaces pulled together a style guide a few years ago – it has some nice background on different platforms and “genres” of web writing
  • Speaking of style guides, Sum of Us offers a very thoughtful one, A Progressive’s Style Guide, for folks interested in harnessing language as a tool for social change. 

I would also encourage you to pay attention to blogs and websites you really like.  How do they use white space?  How/Do they offer a scannable page for visitors?  What information do they offer?  

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, my name is Jayne Corso and I am the Community Manager for AEA. Posting on multiple social media sites requires good imagery, and on a low budget this can be tough. Images make your content eye-catching and can even add context to a post. On all channels, posting with images out preforms those without images. Canva is an easy and free way to create your own graphics, charts, infographics, and images. Today, I will show you how to create an image using free Canva formats, layouts, and photos.

Rad Resource: Choose your format

Each social media channel has a preferred image size. This size will allow your photos to be clearly viewed in a newsfeed. Canva takes the guess work out, and helps you create images specifically for each channel. They have an array of sizes you can choose from. You can even create a custom design by entering your own dimensions. For this example, we will be choosing the Facebook post format.

Rad Resource: Find a Layout

Canva offer many free layout that you can edit with your own content. Simply click on the layout you like and it will be added to your canvas.

Rad Resource: Edit your image

Once you have selected your desired layout, you can now add photos and text to your image. If you have a photo you would like to use, simply upload it to Canva under “uploads”. If you don’t have a photo, you’re in luck. Canva offers high quality stock photos for free. Browse the collection and find the one that works for your graphic. Once you find the photo, drag it onto the canvas.

Next, click on the text of your image and update the content. You can also change the color of text and backgrounds as you desire.

Once you are happy with your creation, download your image by selecting the “download” button in the right corner. Now you can post it to Facebook and promote your webinar!

I look forward to seeing lots of designs in my newsfeed!

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 Sheila B Robinson, aea365’s Lead Curator and sometimes Saturday contributor with a great offer on a (literally!) huge new resource!

Lesson Learned: The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research was a favorite grad school text. This blog article’s titular phrase “quiet revolution” comes from Norman Denzin and Yvonna Lincoln’s preface to my 2nd edition (c. 2000) of the highly esteemed tome. The authors/editors shared then that they observed “over the past two decades, a quiet methodological revolution had been occurring in the social sciences; a blurring of disciplinary boundaries was taking place.”

Now, in SAGE’s 5th edition published this year, Denzin and Lincoln open Chapter 1 with a series of questions:

  • What do we mean by research, inquiry, critical, social justice, transformative, dialogic, reflexive, participatory, emancipatory, narrative, resistance love, loss, praxis, rigor, and writing as a way of being in the world?
  • How do we move forward?
  • What is the place of a new edition of the Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research in this project?
  • What is the role of critical qualitative research in a historical present when the need for social justice has never been greater?

Clearly, a great deal has changed in the 17 years since my 2nd edition was published, and since the beginning of the revolution.

Hot Tip: According to SAGE, this new edition has been substantially updated with 19 new chapters, making it a virtually new volume. For those familiar with earlier editions or big players in qualitative research, you’ll still find very familiar names: Guba, Ladson-Billings, Schwandt, Saldaña, Charmaz, and Fine, among others.

NEW TO THIS EDITION:

  • New contributors offer 19 completely new chapter topics, including indigenous methodologies, methodologies in an age of new technologies, queer/quare theory, ethnodrama, data and its problematics, triangulation, collaborative inquiry, digital ethnography, the global audit culture, and much more.
  • Substantial revisions from returning authors provide reinvigorated content resulting in very different chapters.
  • Content on a wide range of key topics, diverse perspectives, and current controversies derived from members of an international and interdisciplinary editorial board ensure the timeliest revision.

KEY FEATURES:

  • Six classic chapters cover topics from paradigmatic controversies, contradictions, and emerging confluences, to performance ethnography, writing as a method of inquiry, strategies for composition, and creating narratives and research reports.
  • Contributions from well-known international scholars allow readers to study the differences in approach among European, Australian, and American practitioners and theoreticians, as well as to hear the voices of non-Western authors.
  • Coverage of state-of-the-art topics include critical social science, critical pedagogy, mixed methods, narrative inquiry, qualitative research and technology, online ethnography, oral history, human rights, disability communities, queer theory, and performance ethnography.
  • Discussions on a wide range of methods expand the reader’s repertoire of methodologies, enlarging the range of data that can be brought to bear on social and educational issues.

Hotter Tip!!! SAGE is offering a 30% discount on the purchase price (of the hardcover version only) when entering the code DENZIN30 at sagepub.com. Of course, if you’re traveling light (the book is still around 1000 pages!), you can also purchase electronic versions.

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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Happy Saturday, folks!  I’m Liz Zadnik, aea365’s Outreach Coordinator.  I live in the Mid-Atlantic region of the country and was snowed in a few weeks ago.  The storm wasn’t as bad as it could have been (for us…thankfully), but I had a chance to spend some time catching up on my reading resolution.  

Rad Resource: First off, I need to again express my appreciation for AEA’s member access to journals and publications from the field. I love New Directions for Evaluation and was excited to see “Planning and Facilitating Working Sessions with Evaluation Stakeholders.”  Part of my “day job” is engaging stakeholders in conversations about nuanced topics and complex issues.  The inclusion of a case example helped me operationalize concepts and give me some great ideas for my own practice.

View of desk with three plants lined up from left to right with a whiteboard in the background

Lessons Learned: A big factor in successful group project is navigating potential issues or influences within the group of stakeholders.  This includes both investigating the attitudes and dynamics of group members, as well as your own biases as the facilitator.  The article encourages evaluators to learn about possible political, historical, and/or social contexts that may prevent or hinder group cohesiveness and trust.  Is it (in)appropriate to bring everyone together initially?  Or do distinct groups need to be engaged before a collective can be established?  

There’s also a great table with skills and questions for facilitators, each topic has examples and items to explore.  What caught my eye – most likely because it’s something that has tripped me up personally in the past – was a set of questions about previous group facilitation experience.  It’s challenging not to bring past experiences with you to the present, but a lack of patience or quickness to make assumptions about dynamics and process can really impede creativity, innovation, and thoughtful problem-solving.  

I also loved how the author outlines thoughtful considerations and steps for facilitating and operationalized those considerations with a case example.  Particularly during the description of the debrief – I am a huge fan of self-reflection and really appreciated its inclusion within the facilitation process.  

I would definitely recommend the article to anyone who wants to up their facilitation game and is looking for guidance on how best to engage project stakeholders!   

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 Tricia Wind and I work in the evaluation section of the International Development Research Centre in Canada – an organization that funds research in Africa, Asia and Latin America.  My section regularly does quality assessments of the evaluations that are commissioned by our program staff colleagues as well as by the organizations we fund.

Lessons Learned:

We have seen how quality depends not just on the consultants who undertake evaluations, but also on the program managers who commission them. Commissioners decide the scope of an evaluation and its timing. They define questions and facilitate use. They approve evaluation budgets. Commissioning decisions are key to evaluation quality.

Seeing that most evaluation resources are targeted to evaluators, IDRC teamed up with BetterEvaluation to produce a new interactive, online guide to support program managers.  It guides program managers in their roles and decision-making before, during and after an evaluation to ensure the evaluation is well designed, use-oriented and appropriately positioned within an organization.

Rad Resource:

The Program Manager’s Guide walks program managers through nine typical steps of commissioning and managing an evaluation. It provides high-level overviews of the steps, more detailed sub-steps and, and also links to further resources available on the rest of the rich BetterEvaluation website. It is available in English and French.

The GeneraTor: The guide is accompanied by a tool, called the GeneraToR, which prompts users to document the decisions they are making about an evaluation (its scope, uses, questions, timing, budget, evaluator qualifications, deliverables, governance, etc.) in an online form.  The form becomes a customized terms of reference that can be downloaded to share with stakeholders. The terms of reference are foundational for other documents for the evaluation, such as requests for proposals (rfps), consulting contracts, workplans and stakeholder engagement plans.

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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Mar/17

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Engaging with EvalYouth by Khalil Bitar

I am Khalil Bitar (EvalYouth Vice-Chair). Along with Bianca Montrosse-Moorhead and Marie Gervais (EvalYouth Co-Chairs), I am very glad to have connected with all of you throughout our recent sponsored week. During the week, we presented EvalYouth, its achievements so far, and our plans for the near future. Despite the prominent work EvalYouth has achieved thus far, there is still more work to do.  EvalYouth hopes to build on our successes to achieve a lot more in 2017 and 2018.  Today, I’d like to tell you more about how to engage with EvalYouth.

Hot Tips:

During our sponsored week, you learned about the work of Task Force 1, Task Force 2, and Task Force 3.  We plan to start a fourth task force in 2017 focusing on youth inclusion in evaluation.  To do all this, we need the engagement of more members who are passionate about the future of Evaluation.

There are multiple ways to engage with EvalYouth:

Rad Resources:

Take a moment to read EvalYouth’s Concept Note, which details the network’s goals and objectives, governance structures, and a lot more.

Bianca, Marie, and I hope that we were successful in shedding light on EvalYouth and its work during EvalYouth week on aea365.  We very much look forward to hearing from you!

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.

Hello AEA365!  I’m Paul Collier. Over the last two years I worked as the Data and Evaluation Manager at the San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Center (SFCAPC), a mid-size nonprofit focused on ending child abuse in San Francisco. In my time there and as a freelancer, I can’t count the number of times I’ve fielded questions from staff about data their organization has collected. They often go something like this…

collier-post-imagea

How frustrating! But as someone serving as an internal evaluator or data analyst at an organization, I have to remind my staff questions like these are my friend. When my staff asked me questions about their data, I knew they’re engaged and interested in using it. But I often found the first questions they asked weren’t the questions that would really help them make decisions or improve their programs. This post is about helping your staff think critically and ask smarter questions about their data.

Hot Tip: Focus on highly strategic questions

Questions that can be answered with existing data come in all shapes and sizes. I like to consider first whether the results may help the organization improve or refine our programs. For example, questions testing the cause-and-effect relationships in our logic model or assumptions in our theory of change can and should inform programming. A second aspect of a strategic question is whether our team has expectations for the result. I often realized that our staff didn’t have expectations around average improvement or effect size, so I would find a few studies using comparable assessments and interventions to identify some benchmarks. Perhaps the most useful aspect of a strategic question is whether our staff can take action based on the results. I found that if my staff can’t envision how the results might actually be used, its wiser to help them think through this before spending my time (and theirs) analyzing the data.

Cool Trick: Plan for Analysis.

To be more strategic about the analysis questions I focused on, I built time between the request for analysis and doing the work. An initial conversation with the program manager or staff to learn more about the context of a question usually helped me refine it to be more specific and actionable. I found that batching analysis for a certain time in the year was also a useful planning approach that protected my time. I preferred to have this ‘analysis period’ in the winter, because my organization set its budget in the spring. This way, any changes to programming that resulted from the process could be planned for in the following year’s budget.

Rad Resources:

As you can tell, I think helping staff ask smarter questions is one of the most valuable things I do as an internal evaluator. For more reading on this topic, check out:

  • Michael Hyatt’s Blog on Asking More Powerful Questions: Michael Hyatt is a business author who provides some clear and easy to understand advice to aspiring leaders on asking questions.
  • Peter Block’s book, Flawless Consulting: Block’s Flawless Consulting provides many helpful suggestions for structuring analysis processes so they influence action. There are also several great chapters about overcoming resistance in clients, which I’ve found highly relevant for dealing with inevitable resistance in results within my team.
  • Rodger Peng, Ph.D.’s E-Book, The Art of Data Science: Peng illustrates what a practical data analysis approach looks like, framing each step as a process of setting expectations and understanding why results did or did not meet those expectations.

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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Say cheese! It’s me, Sheila B Robinson, AEA365’s Lead Curator and sometimes Saturday contributor. We have featured a number of blog posts over the years on finding and using images to complement your evaluation work, whether you are in the business of blogging, presenting, teaching, creating reports, or other areas. It’s more important than ever not only to become familiar with where to find images, but also with how you can and cannot use them legally.

Lesson Learned:

  1. Creative Commons is not the same as “copyright free.” According to Creativecommons.org,  The Creative Commons copyright licenses and tools forge a balance inside the traditional “all rights reserved” setting that copyright law creates. Our tools give everyone from individual creators to large companies and institutions a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions to their creative work. The combination of our tools and our users is a vast and growing digital commons, a pool of content that can be copied, distributed, edited, remixed, and built upon, all within the boundaries of copyright law.
  2. There are many Creative Commons licenses and it’s important to understand their differences. There are 6 main types ranging from more restrictive to less restrictive. Each license comes with language that helps the user understand whether attribution is required, and whether the product can be changed in any way or used for commercial purposes. Read this page to learn about each license.
  3. There is one type of license with NO restrictions! CC0 1.0 means that the designer has dedicated the work to the public domain by waiving all of his or her rights to the work worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law. You can copy, modify, distribute and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.

Hot Tips: Where do you find good images? While there are countless websites that offer free and paid images, icons, and other graphics:

  1.  28 Places to Download Free Images for Websites and Blogs includes an updated list of and links to photo sites along with definitions of public domain and CC0.
  2. Nolan Haims Creative offers blog subscribers access to a bunch of great free resources, including a wonderful “taxonomic” reference list of photo sites

Cool Trick: Once you have a collection of images, what do you do with them? Check out Echo Rivera‘s email course on creating your own visual database. Echo found that searching for images while she was creating presentations wasn’t good for her workflow, so she advises creating visual database that organizes visuals in ways that make them easily accessible when you need them (minding the different types of licenses). Read this blog post for her explanation and rationale for this technique.

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, my name is Jayne Corso and I am the Community Manager for the AEA. LinkedIn stands out as the social platform for professional development and industry sharing. It is a great resource for presenting yourself as an experienced evaluator as well as finding resources and networking opportunities that will benefit your practice and strategies. I have compiled a few tips that will help you create a stronger personal profile, and identified LinkedIn resources.

Hot Tip: Enhance your Profile

Go beyond just including a photo, work experience, and education – really enhance your profile by including your publications, skills, awards, independent course work, volunteer experience, or organizations you belong to. All of these features allow you to have a robust, well-rounded profile and will highlight your expertise as an evaluator.

Hot Tip: Use key words

Create a list of keywords that accurately communicate your expertise. For example, evaluation, visual data, statistics, research, and monitoring are searchable key words that resonate with evaluation. To improve your profile, incorporate these keywords repeatedly in your profile descriptions. This will allow your profile to be ranked high when the words are searched within LinkedIn. Placing keywords in your profile headline is also a great way to show your expertise and helps other users make an informed decision about connecting with you.

Hot Tip: Customize your LinkedIn URL.

When you join LinkedIn, the site creates a generic URL for your profile that includes a series of numbers. Similar to a website URL, these numbers do not resonate high in a search. Placing your name or keywords into your URL will improve the visibility of your profile. Here is a list of Instructions for how to customize your URL.

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 aea365-ers! I’m Sheila B. Robinson, Lead Curator and sometimes Saturday contributor. At this point you’re probably thinking, “Putty-what??? Multi-what??? Are those even real words?” According to Emilie Wapnick, they certainly are. Before I tell you about Emilie, let me ask you these questions:

1.) Have you had one or more jobs in fields other than evaluation?

2.) Do you have a degree or have you taken courses in another field of study, perhaps even one (or more!) unrelated to evaluation?

3.) Have you changed your interests (personal or professional) over time?

4.) Do you continue to pursue learning in fields outside of evaluation just based on personal interest?

If you answer “yes” to any or all of these, you might be a multipotentialite. Emilie, leader of the Puttylike Tribe, describes herself and her professional careers as characterized by “shape-shifting, exploration and evolution.” She has pursued multiple interests over time and created the Tribe to bring together fellow multipotentialites. According to Emilie, a multipotentialite is simply “a person who has many different interests and creative pursuits in life.”

Image credit: UFV Science Rocks via Flickr

Image credit: UFV Science Rocks via Flickr

I started my career as a public school classroom teacher and have held several other positions in education as well including evaluator. But, my first major in college was music and I spent 10 years working for a music studio teaching private piano lessons! In my spare time, I read books and articles in areas including business, psychology, nutrition, and medicine. Oh, and I’m in a Meetup group learning website design! Since becoming involved in AEA I’ve met many evaluators with backgrounds and interests at least as varied as my own.

If you think you might be a multipotentialite, you’re in good company! One of our most revered thought leaders, Michael Scriven, is certainly one. Were you under the impression that Scriven is just an evaluator? Not so! According to a 2014 Psychology Today article, Life Advice from the Smartest and Wisest Person I Know: Practical Wisdom from a True Polymath, Scriven has “published in the leading journal in eleven disciplines: from philosophy to mathematics, evaluation to parapsychology. He’s also relentlessly practical: with impressive expertise in design of word processors, knives, and sports cars.” Did you catch a key part of that last sentence? ELEVEN disciplines!!! Wow…

In a way, it’s not surprising that evaluators are likely multipotentialites. After all, Scriven maintains that evaluation itself is considered a transdiscipline (and even the “alpha discipline”): “…like logic and statistics, evaluation is a major transdiscipline because all disciplines rely on the evaluation process to judge the value of the entities within their own purview…” (Alkin, 2013, p. 33 from  Evaluation Roots: A Wider Perspective of Theorists’ Views and Influences). Evaluators must be puttylike in order to succeed in our field. Just check out this proposed set of evaluator competencies*!

Rad Resources: Emilie Wapnick’s popular TED talk has over 3.6 million views, and she just published How to Be Everything: A Guide for Those Who (Still) Don’t Kohn What They Want to Be When They Grow Up.

*You’ll need an AEA membership or free website account to access these.

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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