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

May/11

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Eun Kyeng Baek and SeriaShia Chatters on the Risks in Internal Evaluation

Hello everyone! Our names are Eun Kyeng Baek and SeriaShia Chatters. We are an evaluation team and doctoral students from the University of South Florida. We have served as internal and external evaluators in program evaluations in university settings. Additionally, we have experience in the development and administration of evaluation tools. Serving as an internal evaluator may be associated with several advantages and disadvantages. It is important to consider the risks and rewards equally. Failing to adequately consider the risks can have serious consequences. The following outline is a guide to help internal evaluators identify possible risks throughout the course of an evaluation and how to manage each risk as it may arise.

Lesson Learned

Before you decide to participate:

  1. Consider the possible risks to your occupation: If the evaluation results are not favorable, could you lose your job? If an unforeseen event occurs during the course of the evaluation, could it have adverse effects on your reputation?  Carefully scrutinize all of the possible risks and plan for the worst case scenario.
  2. Consider collaborating with an external evaluator: Can the risks you may encounter be transferred?  Collaborating with an external evaluator may minimize your risk, maximize the depth of your evaluation, and ensure adherence to ethics.

During the evaluation:

  1. Carefully choose which evaluation tools you will use: What is the best way to reduce bias or contamination of the evaluation results? How may your presence impact the results of the evaluation? Consider using tools and techniques that may allow participants to respond anonymously. Be ethical and consider consulting an external evaluator if issues arise.
  2. Be aware of office politics: Are there hidden agendas? Is there an alternative purpose for your evaluation? Carefully choose your evaluation questions.  Ensure documentation doe s not disclose personal information of employees/individuals that may implicate you in the future.

After the evaluation:

  1. Track the evaluation report and monitor the impact: Is the evaluation report being used for the purposes it was not originally intended for?  How has the evaluation report impacted the work environment? Keep accurate records of your involvement in the evaluation. Keep all information collected during the course of the evaluation confidential, do not discuss your involvement with coworkers.

Above all else, protect yourself. Consider the risks mentioned above, however in some cases the overall risk may be low, but the personal risk may be too much for you to handle. Use your best judgment and ensure you are comfortable with your final decision.

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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4 comments

  • Chad Green · June 27, 2012 at 10:06 am

    If you are a champion of the organization’s core values, you have nothing to lose as an internal or external evaluator.

    Reply

  • A few of the reasons why I absolutely loved being an internal evaluator « Adventures of an Internal Evaluator · May 2, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    […] […]

    Reply

  • Kelci Price · May 25, 2011 at 11:50 am

    Having been an internal evaluator for 7 years I found that the relationships with my stakeholders were key. Since they regarded me as an expert in evaluation and as an impartial observer (since I didn’t have a stake in whether their programs were successful or not), they were more than willing to discuss what evaluation questions would be most appropriate, and to hear ‘negative’ findings from the evaluation. Internal politics are certainly a way of life for any internal evaluator, and I made sure to consider organizational agendas and craft my messages in a way that would minimize problems or misuse of evaluation findings.

    However, in a supportive context with engaged stakeholders I never felt a need to minimize my risks, keep my involvement in an evaluation secret, and certainly never worried about losing my job based on evaluation findings. By making myself a part of the team on every project I worked with, and by positioning myself as someone who was there to empower the team with information about their program, I never felt ‘at risk’ in any way. In fact, I think my internal status gave me much more leeway to constructively challenge my stakeholders than I have now as an external evaluator.

    Reply

  • Stanley Capela · May 25, 2011 at 7:25 am

    As an internal evaluator for 32 years I am somewhat confused. First, internal politics is a way of life. Internal evaluators know that and expect that. Second, internal evaluators usually don’t have a choice in deciding whether or not to participate it is part of their job. Third, for many internal evaluators the methods that are often employed usually duplicate the funding source approach. Why? Simply stated, program directors want to identify the problems before the county, city, state or federal governmental agency comes to the program so they can make an effort to resolve the problem.

    Reply

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