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

Jan/10

18

Claire Tourmen on Introducing Evaluation

My name is Claire Tourmen and I am an assistant professor in education science, in France (AgroSup Dijon). I study evaluators’ practices, skills and training. I’m interested in explaining evaluation to people who don’t know it (people involved in an evaluation for the first time, students etc.) it and I’ll share with you a simple way of doing it. It was used by one of my professors (Gérard Figari) and I find it really didactic.

Hot Tip: When introducing the concept of evaluation, I begin by asking a simple question: “If I say that it’s too cold in this room, what did I do?” I try to make them find the main operations involved in an evaluation: the final operation is to assert a judgment, such as “It is too cold”. It is easy to find. To be able to do it, I had to gather some data (by any means: I checked a thermometer, I shivered, I saw people shivering etc.). Also easy to find. The point is that I had to interpret these data to make my judgment. How did I do it?

Then I ask people a second question: “For example, if I saw that the temperature was around 15°C (or 59°F), what does it means? Is it cold or not?” The answer they always give is: “It depends!” People understand that, to be able to judge any object, you need to compare gathered data (for instance, 15°C (or 59°F), and I introduce the concept of indicator) to other elements (then I introduce the concept of standards) that give a value to it.

We finally work on the different types of standards you can use to evaluate:

  1. general/legal norms and rules (15°C, or 59°F, is too cold compared to what is expected as a temperature in this kind of room);
  2. objectives (It is too cold because I turned my heater on and I was expecting 19°C, or 66°F) or people’s needs (It is too cold because my audience shivers and finds it too cold to seat quietly) ;
  3. what is usual or considered as normal and acceptable (It is too cold because, in this season, the average temperature is around 19°C, or 66°F, in this kind of room);
  4. other data on the same object (It is too cold because I went in this room 30 minutes ago, the temperature was hotter and I didn’t expect such a difference).

I conclude by saying that whatever object you evaluate, you need to be clear on what standards you can use (as a basis of comparison) and what data you need to collect to effectively make your judgment.

Links: Stufflebeam (1980) Evaluation in Educational Decision Making (in French): http://bit.ly/Levaluation

And if you want to know more about evaluation in France, please visit the French Evaluation Association (SFE) website and guidelines (translated in English): http://bit.ly/frenchevalassociation – click on “la charte votée en 2003 – version anglaise –“ at the bottom of the page.

This contribution is from the aea365 Daily Tips blog, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org.

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5 comments

  • Admin comment by Susan Kistler · January 27, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    Claire and colleagues,

    Jamie Coburn’s 1/27 post on Prek Data Sources also mentions the Eva the Evaluator book and gives an ordering link. I bought one for a family member for Christmas – it’s adorable!

    Reply

  • Jan Hense · January 25, 2010 at 4:08 am

    Hi Claire, I loved your example. It reminds me of the famous chocolate cookie exercise, only that it’s shorter and less rich in calories…

    If you want to toss in a bit of evaluation theory jargon, your example could easily be used to illustrate Scriven’s (1980) four elements of the logic of evaluation, too.

    Jan
    (from Munich, Germany)

    Reply

  • Claire Tourmen · January 21, 2010 at 3:03 am

    Thank you for your comments. I’ll try to find “Eva the evaluator”! If you have any other simple examples one can use to introduce evaluation concepts, I’ll be interested!

    Claire from rainy France

    Reply

  • Jane Davidson · January 18, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    I love that explanation using temperature as an example. Nice one!!! So simple, but it allows people to get their head around the key concepts very nicely, including the importance of context, and of using various sources of data (qualitative and quantitative).

    Thanks for the interesting post! 🙂

    Jane
    (from Aotearoa New Zealand)

    Reply

  • Author comment by Marcus · January 18, 2010 at 11:36 am

    Thanks, Claire, for the tips. Have you gotten a chance to read “Eva the Evaluator”? I think the book does a wonderful job of explaining evaluation to children.

    Reply

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