EEE Week: Melissa Cater on Building a Community of Practice
My name is Melissa Cater, and I am an assistant professor and evaluation specialist at Louisiana State University AgCenter.
The purpose of the Evaluation CoP is to support people within the Cooperative Extension system who are interested in evaluating Extension programs. While the focus of our group is supporting Extension evaluation efforts, the information is applicable to many program evaluators. Evaluators working in other nonformal educational settings may find useful resources as well as a place for engagement with like-minded professionals. AEA Topical Interest Groups (TIGs) or new CoPs may consider a similar approach of engaging core members to build synergy with a larger group.
One of the resources provided by the Evaluation CoP is a list of 97 frequently asked questions. Answers to questions related to topics like evaluation design and data analysis are provided. Links to archived webinars on evaluation topics ranging from impact reporting to the use of photolanguage are also accessible.
The core mission of a CoP is to provide a place to share information and experiences among group members. Providing structures to advance group communication is key to group success. The Evaluation CoP offers members an opportunity to connect via social media.
Our CoP Facebook page provides a platform for members to connect, to pose questions to the group, and to share success stories. Twitter offers another means of connection; interested individuals may follow us at @EvalCoP. Our group also sponsors a blog, the eXtension Evaluation Community Blog. While our blog is in its infancy, our vision is for contributors to supply more in-depth evaluation information.
Our Evaluation Community of Practice story illustrates Wenger’s (1998) principles of CoP structure. These principles, mutual engagement, joint enterprise, and shared repertoire (pp. 72-73), are easily applicable to AEA TIGs or to any other group of evaluators who share a common evaluation interest.
- Mutual Engagement. Shared work has helped our members build relationships that span the nation. This social network forms the foundation of our work as a CoP. We have discovered both our individual and shared strengths and use these to benefit the CoP’s work.
- Joint Enterprise. By striving together to improve our evaluation practice within the Cooperative Extension system, we have built a shared understanding of our work. We recognize the commonalities we share with other evaluators as well as the unique aspects of our craft as Extension evaluators.
- Shared Repertoire. Our ongoing work as a collaborative community, creating resources like the frequently asked questions and webinars, has resulted in shared work and shared products.
In the words of Henry Ford, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Extension Education Evaluation (EEE) TIG Week with our colleagues in the EEE Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our EEE TIG members. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.