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

TAG | Evaluation 2014

Hi! My name is Denise Ramón. I am a doctoral student in education at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas and work at the Center for Civic Leadership that focuses on civic engagement and leadership. More specifically, I help to connect my university to the community. I am interested in Asset Based Community Development (ABCD).

Lessons Learned: While at the AEA 2014 Denver conference, I attended a session that was of particular interest to me, Altschuld, Hung, and Lee’s Getting Started in an Asset/Capacity Building and Needs Assessment Effort. Two dichotomous philosophical approaches were presented, needs assessment and asset / capacity building (A/CB). One of the main ideas stemming from this presentation was to create a hybrid framework between needs assessment and asset mapping. If evaluation is evolving to be visionary and sustainable, mixing traditional models, such as needs assessments, with newer ideas, such as capacity building and asset mapping, seems rather logical. This way, the best of both worlds can be extracted and can fill each other’s gaps, one can complement the other rather than being at odds. With this innovative notion, more research is needed to see if a model can really be developed and effectively implemented.

Coming to my second AEA conference enhanced my network system. I participated in most of the social events hosted by AEA, such as the TIG social events, the poster presentation session, and the silent auction. Getting to know others in the field gives me confidence to participate in more evaluation activities because I know I can ask for help and turn to other veterans with more expertise. Lesson learned: Jump in to AEA with confidence and an open mind. Reach out to others. Network.

Rad Resource: Using the AEA Public elibrary to find the presentations was so very useful for me. I was able to download the presentations and can now possibly use the document as a reference for my research. I highly recommend using the AEA e-library. You can also upload your own presentation and documents. It is another way to promote your work.

As a doctoral student and novice to the evaluation field, the mere experience of attending the conferences has enhanced my overall learning and understanding of evaluation. Not only have I learned about new resources to tap into, like the e-library, but I have been able to relate newly learned evaluation concepts to other parts of my professional and academic life and research. This has been in part to having made new connections.

We’re celebrating Evaluation 2014 Graduate Students Reflection Week. This week’s contributions come from graduate students of Dr. Osman Ozturgut of the Dreeben School of Education at the University of the Incarnate Word, along with students from other universities. 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.

Hello! We are Çigdem Meek, Bashar Ahmed, and Marissa Molina, PhD students at the University of Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas. As novice evaluators, we would like to share what we have learned from our experience of attending the 28th Annual Conference of the American Evaluation Association in Denver.

Lessons Learned:

  • Attending the conference as a group of PhD students from the same university eased our anxiety of being among expert evaluators. Plan with your peers to attend the next conference in Chicago!
  • Stay at the conference hotel (and make your reservation as soon as possible). You will not regret the networking opportunities it provides!
  • Attend pre-conference and post-conference workshops! Evaluation 101 is a great workshop to understand the basics of evaluation.
  • Join Topical Interest Groups (TIGS) business meetings. Meet with like-minded evaluators!
  • Look for volunteer opportunities, especially if this is your first time. This helps you meet with other evaluators with ease (and also helps with the registration cost).
  • Participate in panel discussions. This is an excellent way to meet and learn from other evaluators.
  • Do NOT miss the opportunities to learn from the best through panel discussions, workshops, and conference sessions! (i.e. Donna Mertens, Robert Stake, Stafford Hood, Rodney Hopson, Hazel Symonette, Jody Fitzpatrick, Michael Scriven, Michael Patton, Art Hernandez, Karen Kirkhart, and Cindy Crusto have facilitated excellent sessions and provided exceptional insights for novice evaluators).
  • Make sure you have your business cards (a lot) with you and exchange! Remember to take notes on cards you receive (I thought I could remember all!). In order to stay connected send them a brief email within 10 days after conference.
  • Take notes to review later during the sessions and reflect on what you learn. Remember, reflection is what makes learning meaningful.

Rad Resources: Check out these resources before attending the conference!

We’re celebrating Evaluation 2014 Graduate Students Reflection Week. This week’s contributions come from graduate students of Dr. Osman Ozturgut of the Dreeben School of Education at the University of the Incarnate Word, along with students from other universities. 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.

Hi, my name is Erica Roberts, an AEA GEDI scholar, doctoral candidate at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, and an intern at the National Cancer Institute Office of Science Planning and Assessment. As a graduate student who is approaching the transition from student to professional in the field of public health evaluation, I would like to share with you the lessons I learned from attending the AEA conference in the hope that these lessons can be used by other graduate students planning to attend next year’s conference.

Lesson Learned: Prepare to build your professional network. The AEA conference provides an expansive and rare opportunity to meet evaluation experts, future mentors, and possible employers. Prior to attending the conference, use the Topical Interest Groups (TIG) to navigate the conference program and identify experts in your field of interest. Remember to pack business cards and update your resume or vitae. Once at the conference – be bold! Introduce yourself to presenters from organizations or fields of practice that interest you and have a few talking points or questions prepared. Once you’ve connected, add their information into an Excel spreadsheet and, after the conference, note if and when you follow-up via email and the outcome of your discussion. This will help for professional networking down the road!

Lesson Learned: Prepare to be overwhelmed (but in a good way). Before arriving at the conference, figure out a way to stay organized that works best for you. I brought my iPad to each session and used the EverNote app to take notes. Most importantly (to my organization), I kept a “to-do” note where I listed everything I wanted to do when I returned home (e.g., articles to read, experts to connect with, student scholarships or job opportunities to apply for). It is likely that you will encounter a lot of information that you want to know more about but do not have the mental space to process – this is where making a “to-do” list for home comes in handy!

Lesson Learned: Prepare to be inspired. You may find at the AEA conference that the ways to approach evaluation are endless – depending on the field, the context, the purpose, etc. Do not let this discourage you; rather – let it inspire you. Take these ideas and put them in your back pocket and know that at some point you may be asked to conduct an evaluation and you will have a myriad of methods and approaches to look to. I encourage you to use the AEA conference to learn about approaches to evaluation that you are not familiar with, and identify ways in which those methods could be adopted to your work!

We’re celebrating Evaluation 2014 Graduate Students Reflection Week. This week’s contributions come from graduate students of Dr. Osman Ozturgut of the Dreeben School of Education at the University of the Incarnate Word, along with students from other universities. 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.

 

 

 

 

Hello! My name is Danielle Cummings. I am a member of the AEA Graduate Education Diversity Internship (GEDI) program and a graduate student at NYU Wagner School of Public Service studying public policy analysis.

Attending AEA’s annual conference was inspiring and edifying. As a graduate student learning analytical methods and research design, the conference was a wonderful opportunity to see practical applications of many of the tools I learn about in the classroom. I came away from the experience with both a refined vision of what a career in evaluation might entail, as well as a wealth of theories, frameworks, and skills to integrate into my work.

I’m anxious to put so many of the things I learned at AEA into practice, but the technique I’m most excited about is called solution-focused qualitative interviewing. Dr. Emily Spence-Almaguer and Shlesma Chhetri introduced session participants to an innovative approach to qualitative inquiry that they believe has improved interview participants’ candor, thereby increasing the richness of their qualitative data. Trained as a social worker, Dr. Spence-Almaguer adapted a therapeutic technique called solution-focused therapy to enhance qualitative inquiry.

Hot Tip: There are two key elements of solution-focused dialogues: 1) People are experts on their lives, and 2) interviewees filter their responses based on expectations. In practice, this means that when we approach qualitative interviews with humility, treat interviewees as the experts, and frame our questions in a way that encourages creativity, interviewees’ responses will be more frank, dynamic, and provide sufficient context to require low levels of inference by the researcher.

Here are examples of typical vs. solution-focused qualitative questions asked by Dr. Spence-Almaguer’s research team in her research on solution-focused questions, and examples of interviewee responses:

Traditional approach:

What would you recommend to improve the program?

“Nothing, they are dong an outstanding job.”

Solution-focused approach:

If I were going to give this program another $100,000 next year, what would you recommend that the program administrators do with the money?

“Put more of the [initiative’s] programs together and coordinate them to make them work more effectively.”

By constructing a question that placed the interviewee in a position of authority and invoked imagery, the interviewer elicited a response that not only provided a critique of the program, but also a potential solution to a programmatic problem.

Rad Resource: This post just scratches the surface of solution-focused interviewing. For more information on this approach, check out the slide deck from Dr. Spence-Almaguer’s AEA presentation, available for free to AEA members on AEA’s eLibrary. Make sure to check out the list of additional solution-focused literature and resources on Slide 24!

We’re celebrating Evaluation 2014 Graduate Students Reflection Week. This week’s contributions come from graduate students of Dr. Osman Ozturgut of the Dreeben School of Education at the University of the Incarnate Word, along with students from other universities. 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.

I am Kristin Woods, 2013-2014 co-chair for the GSNE TIG; I am a PhD student at Oklahoma State University in the Research, Evaluation, Measurement, and Statistics program and a faculty member at Southwestern Oklahoma State University.

I attended my first AEA conference in 2012 and was overwhelmed by the number of people and sessions as well as trying to learn about AEA. My advisor, Dr. Katye Perry, encouraged me to attend the Graduate Student and New Evaluator’s TIG business meeting. This drastically changed my experience with AEA because I was voted in as a co-chair even though I did not really know what I was getting into. Over the past two years, this experience has granted me many opportunities that have made me a better evaluator.

Opportunity 1: AEA Involvement. As a co-chair, I have further developed my skills as an evaluator through the vast amounts of resources on the AEA website. I have worked with AEA members, members of the board of directors, and staff on various tasks for the conference. For example, I served as a member and then chair of the Student Travel Awards Working Group and as a conference volunteer.

Opportunity 2: GSNE TIG Involvement. I have developed leadership skills through working with other members of the leadership team to coordinate the conference program, serve as a reviewer, run the business meetings, coordinate social outings, communicate with members, and develop a peer-mentorship program that connects novice evaluators with peers to aid navigating AEA and offer advice on evaluation.

Rad Resources:

  • GSNE TIG website has specific information geared toward novice evaluators and those new to AEA.
  • GSNE TIG Facebook Community Page is a place TIG members informally network throughout the year. We share resources, ask questions, and celebrate our successes as well as commiserate over our struggles.

Opportunity 3: Networking. These opportunities have allowed me to expand my network to include novice to more experienced evaluators from all over the world. I have co-authored several accepted submissions at the 2013 and 2014 AEA conferences, chaired sessions, and been asked to speak at another TIG’s business meeting. This has led to the past two years conferences being drastically different from my first conference. I speak with people I met the previous year, have engaged with through the Facebook page, e-mail, or on the phone. It allows me to put a face with a name, get to know them, and connect with another evaluator that has different experiences, therefore, becoming another resource in my toolbox to pull from when needed, which I do often.

We’re celebrating Evaluation 2014 Graduate Students Reflection Week. This week’s contributions come from graduate students of Dr. Osman Ozturgut of the Dreeben School of Education at the University of the Incarnate Word, along with students from other universities. 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.

My name is Andrea Guajardo and I am the Director of Community Health for CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System and a doctoral student at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas. I have been a member of AEA for exactly one year, and in that year, I was selected for the Minority Serving Institution Fellowship program, elected as the Co-Chair of the Multi Ethnic Issues in Evaluation (MIE) Topical Interest Group (TIG), and functioned as a core planning member of La RED (Latino Responsive Evaluation Discourse) TIG. In addition to these positions within AEA, I have also presented two poster sessions and one paper at AEA2013 and AEA2014.

I would like to use this platform to encourage other graduate students to seize opportunities for professional development afforded by active participation in AEA.   Your graduate education related to evaluation can be tremendously supplemented by creating relationships with experienced evaluators and by providing leadership for groups within AEA.

Hot Tip 1: Become an official member of AEA, join a TIG, and volunteer your time. TIGs are an essential part of the AEA experience both at the annual conference and throughout the year. TIGs are responsible for coordinating the review of proposals in their area of interest and developing a strand of conference sessions at the AEA annual conference, so volunteer help with this process is always appreciated.   TIG membership can help you create relationships with top evaluators and might afford the opportunity to learn about emerging ideas in your field or discipline.

Hot Tip 2: Don’t just attend the annual conference – participate in it. Submit your own evaluation work for a poster, paper, roundtable, or birds of a feather.   Even if your research is in progress, it is still an appropriate occasion to perfect your presentation skills.

Hot Tip 3: Find a mentor. Many experienced AEA members are very willing to provide guidance about how to become more involved and to help map out a path in evaluation at AEA. Their expertise and guidance is valuable as you begin to navigate which activities will benefit you the most in your evaluation career.

Rad Resources: Where do I find more information about joining a TIG or participating in the next annual conference?

For more information about Topical Interest Groups: http://www.eval.org/p/cm/ld/fid=11

For more information about how to submit your evaluation work at AEA2015 in Chicago, Illinois: http://www.eval.org/p/cm/ld/fid=170

We’re celebrating Evaluation 2014 Graduate Students Reflection Week. This week’s contributions come from graduate students of Dr. Osman Ozturgut of the Dreeben School of Education at the University of the Incarnate Word, along with students from other universities. 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.

Hello, my name is Jayne Corso. I am a Community Manager for the American Evaluation Association (AEA) and I manage AEA’s social media presence (@aeaweb). This past week at Evaluation 2014, our event hashtag (#eval14) took on a life of its own and racked up a total of 5,601 tweets thanks to your postings, retweets, and replies. In this post, I’d like to share a few exciting trends and stats that we noticed over the course of the week.

The following data points reflect Tweets sent with the #eval14 hashtag from Monday, October 13 – Sunday, October 19

Impact: 3,707,835—This is the potential number of times someone could have seen #eval14 hashtag on their Tweet stream.

506 Contributors—This number refers to the number of twitter users that sent tweets or retweets using the #eval14 hashtag.

Our twitter community was very active throughout the conference, especially on Friday, October 17. (Click image to enlarge) 

AEA tWITTER GRAPH

Thank you to all of our 506 twitter contributors! You helped AEA keep the conference relevant on twitter and we loved seeing your original tweets. (Click image to enlarge) 

Most Active Contributors:

  1. @StrongRoots_SK
  2. @KatHaugh
  3. @Broadleafc
  4. @InnoNet_Eval
  5. @KimFLeonard

Most Popular Contributors:

  1. @Education_AIR
  2. @TechChange
  3. @NPCthinks
  4. @BillNigh
  5. @FSGtweets

Aea top tweeters

 

Here are a few great tweets we collected from this week’s festivities. Thank you for helping AEA take over twitter for Evaluation2014!

· · ·

Hi, I’m Sheila Robinson, aea365’s Lead Curator and sometimes Saturday contributor with reflections from Denver as we wrap up Evaluation 2014. I’ve enjoyed five AEA conferences now, each one as exciting a learning and community-building opportunity as the last. I spent time thinking deeply about our conference theme and discovering the connections among the various presentations to those ideas and ideals.

Beverly Parsons, our 2014 AEA president, kicked off the conference with an inspiring opening plenary, Visionary Evaluation for a Sustainable Equitable Future during which she described three key areas and how they apply to evaluation.:

Systems thinking: emphasizes seeing interconnections especially related to competing values and ripple effects of various actions.

Building relationships: emphasizes working across disciplines and partners in new ways.

Equitable and sustainable living: draws attention to matters such as the interface between human justice and the use of natural resources.

John Gargani, AEA president-elect for 2016, helped close out the conference in the final plenary by asking participants to consider three key questions:

1.) What should AEA’s role be in supporting a sustainable equitable future?

2.) How might AEA support your plans for visionary evaluation?

3.) How should AEA contribute to the global evaluation community?

Lesson Learned: Many sessions were overflowing with standing room only and some presenters were surprised and honored that their sessions drew such interest. Handouts were in short supply and I heard many, many participants ask for the presenter’s slides.

Get Involved: With that in mind, Evaluation 2014 presenters: Please upload your materials – Slides, handouts, etc. – to the AEA Public eLibrary. It’s easy to do and not only will your Evaluation 2014 participants appreciate it, but your reach will be extended to those who could not be at the conference.

Cool Trick: To extend your learning and enjoy a variety of perspectives, start looking in the coming days and weeks for evaluation bloggers to reflect on their conference experiences. Heres a link to our AEA member blogs.

Hot Tip: This same link will get you a list of evaluators on Twitter. Be sure to search the hashtag #eval14 for conference tweets. I maintain a twitter list of evaluators as well and it grew substantially during the conference closing in on 300. You can subscribe to that list through me – @SheilaBRobinson. Be sure to follow some of the newest #eval tweeters too, to continue to build community among evaluators.

And finally, many evaluators had the opportunity to enjoy all that Denver offers, while others stayed close to the conference sites – The Hyatt Regency and Denver Convention Center. We were perplexed and amused by the friendly but imposing 40ft big blue bear who peers curiously into the Convention Center as if to say, “Who are all these evaluators and what are they about?”

"I See What You Mean" (2005) Sculpture by Lawrence Argent. Photo by Billy Hathorn

“I See What You Mean” (2005) Sculpture by Lawrence Argent. Photo by Billy Hathorn

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.

 

Hello everyone! My name is Leigh M. Tolley, and I am an advanced doctoral student in the department of Instructional Design, Development and Evaluation at Syracuse University, and a Research Assistant at Hezel Associates, LLC in Syracuse, NY. I realized on the way to Denver that this is my fifth AEA conference!

Lesson Learned: I feel like AEA is my professional organization home, and also a professional branch of my family. Each year, I am thrilled to catch up with colleagues and friends in person and to continue to learn more about the field. At my first conference, I was amazed by the many aspects of evaluation that exist at AEA. As a graduate student new to the field, I decided to start by exploring sessions and visiting business meetings.

At the 2011 annual conference, I raised my hand right away when members of the PreK-12 Educational Evaluation TIG asked for volunteers interested in serving as Members-at-Large for the next year. The following year, I served as the TIG’s Program Chair-elect, and have been the Program Chair for 2014.

It can be scary as a student or as someone new to the field to jump in, but for me the initial fear dissipated quickly. I loved the opportunity to get more involved with AEA, and those little steps have evolved into something huge for me, both professionally and personally.

Get Involved: I would like to encourage those thinking about getting more involved to jump in. There are many opportunities to get involved, including volunteering to help a specific TIG at their business meeting, helping to review proposals for next year’s program, or even writing a blog post for aea365. Even just chatting with those seated around you in a session can be a great way to start a network or add to those you already have.

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.

 

Hello! I’m Sheila B Robinson, aea365’s Lead Curator and frequent contributor with a woman-on-the-street (well, woman lurking in conference room) report from first time attendees at #eval14.

This afternoon, I caught up with participants from Presenting Data Effectively: Practical Methods for Improving Evaluation Communication.

Tanya Hills, Evaluation Manager with the USTA Foundation wanted to learn more about technology to better display data she has to report. “I wanted to learn more about different options for graphs and charts.” She shared that she learned a lot of useful and applicable information about how to visually present data using visual learning theory.

Tanya decided to take full advantage of professional development sessions and is looking forward to Evaluation-Specific Methodology and Leading Through Evaluation later this week. Like many attendees, she chose sessions based on their descriptions.

Tanya downloaded the new conference app and is interested in using is as a networking tool. “I’m excited about being among a group of people who have similar interests who are excited about data and are trying to make a positive impact on the world.”

Next, I met Diane Mashburn, Instructor for Program Planning, Evaluation, and Accountability at the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. Before I could even ask her impressions of the workshop, she shared a “small world” story with me. Diane sat at a table with Mark Parman, Evaluation Outcomes Measurement Specialist of the Cherokee Nation. Conversing about bookstores and restaurants in California, Diane and Mark discovered that Diane was born in the same town as Mark’s wife. They then figured out that Mrs. Parman graduated high school with Diane’s mother and Mark remembers having been at their house in years past! Talk about networking!

Diane chose today’s workshop because she’s in charge of federal reporting. “I’m new in the position so I’m always looking for ideas for how to present all the data I’m in charge of collecting.” As for what she’s learned thus far: “I have so many ideas I’m going to have to make a priority list for what I’m going to tackle first!”

To choose sessions for the rest of the week, Diane found the TIG most closely related to what she does – the Extension Evaluation TIG – and decided to attend a number of their sponsored sessions. She started with the online catalog, but then downloaded the conference app to add more to her schedule.

As for networking, she jokes, “There’s no telling who else I might meet who knows my family!” She’s excited about professional networking, too. “I’ve already met a couple of other people that do extension work. I can tell that networking will be really good with this conference.”

Stay tuned this week for more #eval14 action!

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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