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

Aug/11

11

Celina Chao & Patricia Quinones on Maintaining Organizational Memory

Hi. We are Celina Chao and Patricia Quinones, second-year doctoral students in the Social Research Methodology (SRM) Division in the Department of Education at UCLA. We are part of UCLA’s SRM Evaluation Group, composed of evaluation graduate students and faculty who work on a variety of education-related projects.

Lesson Learned: A challenge that university-based evaluation departments (or any evaluation group with a high turnover rate) may face is that some projects last longer than the duration of a student’s time in graduate school. This possibly creates a discontinuity in knowledge flow within the group because tacit knowledge “attenuates particularly quickly in organizations that experience discontinuous membership” (Ibrahim & Nissen, 2007). This discontinuity may affect the quality and efficiency of the evaluation work because “knowledge flows enable workflows, and workflows drive performance, they are essential to organizational performance wherever knowledge and information work are involved” (Ibrahim & Nissen, 2007).  The SRM Evaluation Group has developed a few strategies to facilitate the transfer of knowledge about a program and its evaluation history. Here are some tips learned along the way:

Hot Tip: Use a joint e-mail account through which correspondence with stakeholders can be stored for future reference. This gives incoming group members a sense of the relationship between the evaluator and the stakeholders.

Hot Tip: Use a joint document account, such as Dropbox, to store documents, data, previous evaluation reports, and activity logs. This is especially useful in maintaining continuity and standardization in reporting to stakeholders throughout the duration of the evaluation. This helps to maintain knowledge flow by providing incoming students with a documentation regarding what work has been done on an evaluation and how findings have been reported back to stakeholders.

Hot Tip: Use an on-line activity log for each evaluation project. This log should be updated regularly by anyone working on a given evaluation project. Included in this log can be documentation of stakeholder correspondence, meetings that have taken place, analysis that has been done, etc. This is useful for the same reasons as mentioned above.

Rad Resource: Attending the AEA Annual Conference and deciding what sessions to attend can be overwhelming. One possible way to navigate through AEA is to ask your advisor or a fellow colleague if he/she recommends any sessions. Secondly, don’t solely rely on titles when deciding on what session to attend, read the abstracts as well. Here is a link to all sessions for the conference program: http://www.eval.org/search11/allschedule.asp – click on any one to see its abstract or check off a number of them and then scroll to the bottom and click submit to see abstracts for all the ones you have checked.

Hot Tip: Make it a point to attend the social hours at the AEA Annual Conference, they offer a great opportunity to network.

Hot Tip: We’re active members of the Southern California Evaluation Association (SCEA) and they will be hosting a full week on aea365 the week of October 23. Stay tuned for great tips, lessons, and resources from our SCEA colleagues!

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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