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

TAG | findings

Hello! We are Carolyn Camman, Christopher Cook, Andrew Leyland, Suzie O’Shea, and Angela Towle of the UBC Learning Exchange, which is a little bit of the University of British Columbia in the heart of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES). It’s a bridge for mutual understanding and learning between the University and a neighbourhood rich in community, art, and history, but whose residents face challenges, including homelessness, poverty, gentrification, and stigma. The UBC Learning Exchange acts as a member of the community, giving back to residents through community-based programming alongside experiential learning opportunities for students and support for community-based research.

The Learning Lab supports members of the DTES community to engage in activities and scale-up their involvement by offering creative and educational activities in a flexible, low barrier format. In keeping with the arts-based principles of the Learning Lab and community engagement mission of the Learning Exchange, when it came time to make the results of a recent evaluation accessible to a community audience, the answer was obvious: put on a show!

Voices UP! is a theatrical performance co-written and co-performed with the community members who contributed to the original evaluation. It not only communicated evaluation results, but deepened the evaluation itself. Through writing and performing the play, the cast learned more about evaluation and shared new stories and insights. Over its four-performance run from Spring 2016 to Fall 2017, the show evolved and grew.

Hot Tip: There’s growing interest in using arts-based methods in evaluation. Live theatre is a dynamic and engaging approach that encourages people to connect with findings viscerally and immediately as part of a dialogue between performers and audience. In post-performance talk-back, one person said, “It was neat to hear the participants reflecting on what they had just done as well as what it meant to them to be a part of it.” Another commented that “seeing” the impact of the program was more persuasive than reading about it from a report or grant application.

Lessons Learned: A performance doesn’t have to be polished or “professional” to be effective. Community members speaking in their own words is powerful and there are many creative techniques (like puppets!) that can bring evaluation findings to life. Having a conversation with the cast and giving introductions to audiences before performances about different ways theatre can “look” helped set appropriate expectations.

Rad Resources: To keep Voices UP! going even after the curtains come down for the last time, the Learning Exchange staff and cast of program patrons came together to tell their story one last time, this time in a comic book. You can download this resource online for free: http://learningexchange.ubc.ca/voicesupcomic It was created using the same participatory process as the original performance and tells the story of how Voices UP! came to be, with tips and insights for anyone interested in using theatre methods to tell their evaluation story. Look up “reader’s theatre” and “ethnodrama” for more ideas about turning evaluation and research into plays.

The cast and creators of Voices UP! Photo credit: The UBC Learning Exchange

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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Hi. My name is A. Rae Clementz and in addition to being the co-chair of the Graduate Student and New Evaluator TIG, I am also a techie.  I believe technology is of value when it helps us accomplish our goals in ways that are better, easier, and/or cheaper. I have evaluated several educational technology integration programs. Consistently one of the biggest barriers to successful implementation is teachers’ perceptions of the tool’s cost-benefit ratio. If the cost is too high, it’s a non-starter; the program or cool new toy will never fit in their school’s stretched budget. Even if the tool is free, if it’s too hard to use or doesn’t add some new or improved dimension to student learning, it’s not worth the effort.

I often feel similar time and budget constraints in my evaluations. Below are some cheap, efficient, and effective tools for two common evaluation tasks.

Rad Resource for conducting & recording interviews:

  • Google Voice | I’m one of those people who only has a cell phone. To avoid burning minutes during the day, I make my calls with Google Voice. Google voice uses the internet connection on either your computer or cell phone to make calls. Bonus feature: incoming calls can be recorded, and Google Voice automatically creates a transcript and .mp3 recording of the call in your Google Voice Inbox!
  • Skype + Evaer or Pretty May | Skype is one of the most common video and voice conferencing tools and its basic levels are free. Evaer and Pretty May are programs that record the voice and video feeds of Skype and save them out as either .mp3 or .wav files. Pretty May is free, as is the basic version of Evaer. Full version of Evaer is $20 with lifetime support and upgrades.

Lesson Learned:

It is critical when recording anything that you inform everyone that you’re recording the call, for what purposes, and ask them if they agree to be recorded. Many states have laws prohibiting unauthorized recording of phone conversations.

Rad Resource for disseminating evaluation findings:

  • Weebly + Scribd | Weebly is a simple, free, drag-and-drop, web-based, website design program. If you can use e-mail and PowerPoint, you can create a website using Weebly. Scribd is a free online publishing site. You can upload documents and either direct people to them on Scribd or embed them in websites or other social media sites.

Lesson Learned 1: Sadly, just because you built it doesn’t mean they’ll come.  But having a website for the evaluation is still a good way to provide transparency, encourage comment from stakeholders, and disseminate findings to broader audiences. The process of building the site also promotes more organized communication about the evaluation.

This contribution is from the aea365 Tip-a-Day Alerts, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. Want to learn more from Rae? She’ll be presenting as part of the Evaluation 2012 Conference Program, October 24-27 in Minneapolis, MN.

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