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Kathy Bolland on EVALTALK

I am Kathy Bolland, charter member of the American Evaluation Association (AEA), and “owner” of EVALTALK. My primary professional identity is evaluator although now my primary responsibilities are in research, education, and administration.

Rad Resource: EVALTALK. Evaltalk is an electronic discussion “list” sponsored by AEA. Subscribers need not be AEA members. In 1995, during the first week of operation, 25 people subscribed; now there are over 3000 subscribers.

Lessons Learned—Diversity of Discussion Topics. Evaltalk has been described as both an electronic water cooler and an electronic reference source. Topics range from definitions to philosophical issues and include ethical dilemmas, reference citations, statistical analysis, and debates about the value of statistical analyses. To illustrate the diversity of topics, I reviewed the third week of September 1997 and 2012. In 1997, topics included definitions and theories, needs assessment, analysis of covariance, testing effects, and references. Two posts addressed electronic focus groups. During that week in 2012, there were 12 posts about electronic focus groups! Other discussions included involving stakeholders in data analysis, quality of life instrumentation, graphical information systems, certification or accreditation for evaluators, and examples of photovoice projects. This snapshot illustrates two features of EVALTALK— diversity of discussions and continued interest in some topics.

Hot Tip—How to subscribe. To subscribe to EVALTALK, click on the evaltalk icon on the AEA homepage (www.eval.org) or e-mail listserv@listserv.ua.edu with this message: SUBSCRIBE EVALTALK your name.

Hot Tip—Using the archives. You need not be an AEA member to use the archives, but you must be an Evaltalk subscriber. To use the archives, go to this web site: https://listserv.ua.edu/archives/evaltalk.html

Lesson Learned—From lurking to posting. Clearly many subscribers are lurkers (i.e. they read posts but do not enter the public electronic discussion). Some people are more comfortable as learners than public discussants, and many people prefer “backchannel” or “offlist” discussions. Lurking is ok, but I encourage people to post. We evaltalkers tend to be a friendly group. New subscribers might want to lurk for a little while or review the archives to get a sense of the culture, but really, as long as you are not requesting evaltalkers to do your homework, it is fine to jump right in and ask a question, start a discussion, answer a question, or join a discussion.

Lessons Learned—Meet your Evaltalk friends. Years ago, many evaltalkers met during one of the receptions at the AEA annual conference. Our numbers are too big for that now, but I encourage those of you who participate in a conference to pick up your Evaltalk ribbon near the registration desk and look for other evaltalkers during the conference. It is fun to meet face-to-face someone you’ve known only electronically.

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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