GSNE Week: Laura Sundstrom and Megan Elyse Williams on Intentionally Developing Skills in New Evaluators: The Tier Approach
Hello! We are Laura Sundstrom and Megan Elyse Williams, Evaluation Associates at the Curtis Center Program Evaluation Group (CC-PEG) at the University of Michigan School of Social Work.
At CC-PEG, we train Master of Social Work students in program evaluation through providing high-quality evaluation services to community-based organizations. Our students enter our unit with a variety of experiences and skills. When we were first growing our center, students would get assigned to tasks that were beyond their skill level out of project need. As a result, we developed the Tiers of Skill Development to guide students logically and intentionally through their skill development and professional preparation.
Hot Tip: Make it applicable for your context. We developed these Tiers based on the skills needed to be successful within our Center. Your organization may value different skills or use a different order of development.
Cool Trick: There are many uses for the Tiers – be creative!
- Orientation to evaluation. Helping students understand all of the different components and skills that go into evaluation practice.
- Supervision and mentoring. Working with students to assess their self-efficacy in these skills and where they have practiced these skills in project work.
- Project management. Helping lead evaluators assign tasks that challenge students but are not out of their reach.
- Identifying trainings. Skills that many students have not had a chance to develop may be appropriate for a larger training.
- Personal development. Assisting students in their professional development, advocating for their own learning, and in their job search.
Lessons Learned: After using the Tiers for over a year, we have learned a lot!
- Project work cuts across the tiers. Students don’t have to complete one full tier before moving on to the next. They can develop skills in certain strands of work – such as qualitative data collection and analysis.
- Response set is important for understanding “mastery” of a skill. Highest level on the Tiers is “can teach someone else to do it.” This helps contextualize for students what “mastery” of skill means in the professional world.
- Identify peer support. Identify students that are ready to work towards “mastery” of a skill and pair them for peer support with another student who needs training.
- Skill development rather than self-efficacy. The Tiers focus on demonstrating skill development rather than reporting self-efficacy. Students will be able to point to specific tasks where they practiced a skill instead of saying they are confident in their skill level.
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