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

Mar/16

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GEDI Week: Kevin Lee on Communicating Evaluation Findings

Hi! I’m Kevin Lee. One key takeaway from my year as a GEDI scholar is the idea of communication in evaluation. More specifically, I was exposed to thinking about how to communicate findings in meaningful ways. Whereas writing a grant, working on a manuscript, or completing a report template can often lead to page after page of convoluted text and technical terminology, conveying meaningful data and results has the potential to be less structured yet equally powerful. In reflecting on my experience as a GEDI, I share some guidelines that have helped me think about how I communicate evaluation findings:

  1. Understand and define the stakeholders. It’s important to carefully consider for who the findings are intended. This dictates the kind of information that an evaluator wants to communicate and the most appropriate way to do this. Whether the results are for government officials, academic researchers, funders, or community members makes a difference.
  2. Determine what data are important. As any evaluator knows, an evaluation can generate an extensive amount of data. It’s often necessary to consider what kind of information is relevant based on the evaluation purpose and its stakeholders. While it may be tempting to share all the results, this may be unnecessary for stakeholders who may become overwhelmed by information.
  3. Interpret the data clearly. Data can be interpreted in different ways. Think about what the data are saying and how this can be communicated clearly, concisely and in a way that is relevant to your audience. Reported data should have a purpose and tell a story rather than simply list numbers and facts.
  4. Think about design. To effectively share evaluation findings, consider how the data should be presented. Not only does this refer to interpretation, but also in thinking about the presentation format, data visualization, graphic use, and layout composition, among other aesthetic elements. Creativity and design can garner attention, generate interest, and promote memory retention.

Rad Resources: Dr. Stephanie Evergreen is always insightful about data presentation. You can find information about her books and workshops here: http://stephanieevergreen.com/.

Try your best to enroll in her pre-conference sessions at the annual AEA conference as they tend to fill quickly.

Also very helpful are Elissa Schloesser’s artful interpretations of data. See more here: http://myvisualvoice.com/.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Graduate Education Diversity Internship (GEDI) Program week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from AEA’s GEDI Program and its interns. For more information on GEDI, see their webpage here: http://www.eval.org/GEDI 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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3 comments

  • Nicole Rawn · August 5, 2016 at 8:05 pm

    Dear Kevin Lee,
    Thank you for your article on Communicating Evaluation Findings. I am currently taking a Program Inquiry and Evaluation course for my professional master in education. I found your tips, along with your “rad resources” have been very helpful in creating a Program Evaluation Design, especially when I had to stipulate reporting strategies and methods for enhancing evaluation use.
    I really like your tip on ‘Think about design’. I agree with you that creativity and design can increase attention, interest, and promote memory retention. When exploring your Rad Resources, Dr. Stephanie Evergreen also had many useful tips. Her blog on ‘What I Do: Before and After Business Slides’ was very interesting. I did not know that one should make one point on every slide. I hate to think about how overwhelming some of my presentations have been in the past. I love her quote “Presenting data effectively changes the conversation”.
    Your article reminds me of an article I read for the course ”Evaluation use: Theory, research and practice since 1986 “ by Shulha & Cousins. They state that communication effectiveness is an important category in the effort to enhance evaluation use. I really appreciate your tip on “Determine what data are important’. I do agree that over sharing may overwhelm the stakeholders but how do you choose which data to eliminate?
    Thank you again for your article. It is a great resource for furthering my understanding on communicating meaningful evaluation findings.
    Thank you,
    Nicki Rawn

    Reply

  • Kyle Fraser · March 6, 2016 at 10:27 pm

    Hi there. Some very thoughtful consideration given to your guidelines to help how one would communicate evaluation findings. I plan on using these tips. Simplicity and practicality also go a long way and is always valued by the intended audience.

    Thank You

    Reply

  • Catherine · March 5, 2016 at 7:15 am

    Dear Kevin Lee,

    Thank you for your article on Communicating Evaluation Findings. I am new to the field of evaluation and your guideline, along with your “rad resources” have been very helpful in creating a meaningful and memorable evaluation report.

    I especially appreciate your “Think about design” point. Evaluation is a very technical practice with lots of data and technical language; however, the people for whom any evaluation serves require these figures to take on meaning that will enhance their comprehension of the data and motivate them to action. I have been a participant in evaluations at various points in my career, but have always felt overwhelmed by countless papers filled with boring graphs and confusing equations. How can I be an active participant for change when I can’t interpret the data? Presenting data in creative ways that enhance meaning help to better include stakeholders in the evaluation process.

    Of course, now that I am trying to design these evaluations myself, I see that it is easier said than done. I am looking forward to reading Stephanie Evergreens book on how to present data effectively. Like your article suggests, evaluation is not all about the numbers, there is a huge social and behavioural aspect as well to consider. Including stakeholders in the evaluation process is essential to building meaningful contexts and bridging evaluation use with organizational practices. Your point for understanding and defining stakeholders will help determine appropriate data and presentation methods that will effectively communicate findings.

    Thank you again for your article. It is a great resource for understanding the key components for communicating meaningful evalation findings.

    Sincerely,

    Catherine

    Reply

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