ACM TIG Week: Collaborative Partnerships with Clients as a Foundation for Evaluation and Program Improvement by Yvette Clinton & Sharika Bhattacharya

Hello! We are Drs. Yvette Clinton and Sharika Bhattacharya from ICF and we partner with Young Audiences of Louisiana (YALA) to evaluate their arts-integrated professional development programs implemented in Louisiana schools. These programs seek to increase teachers’ knowledge and capacity for arts-integrated instruction to positively impact student outcomes. As part of our formative and summative evaluation activities, we administer teacher surveys and conduct focus groups or interviews with teachers, principals, and teaching artists to better understand their experiences in the program. We would like to share lessons learned in partnering with YALA to help them identify areas for program improvement based on evaluation findings. 

Lessons Learned:

If one of your evaluation goals is to help the client make improvements to their program, there are important steps to take before you design the evaluation and collect data!

  • Be intentional about fostering client buy-in for the evaluation and using them as a program resource. If your client is committed and invested in evaluation, it will make your job easier as an evaluator.
    • Actively engage client in discussions about their program and objectives before designing your evaluation. Having a deep understanding of what your client envisions for the program will help you design an evaluation that best meets their needs.
    • Build client ownership in the evaluation by sharing your evaluation design and proposed instruments, and tapping into their knowledge. Your client’s feedback could make the evaluation stronger.
  • Ensure your data collection scope is broad enough to capture feedback from a range of stakeholders.
    • Develop instruments to capture perspectives of participants and program implementers. These stakeholders often have unique insights on program challenges and areas for improvement, based on their different vantage points.

Hot Tips:

  • Think beyond the written evaluation report for sharing findings. Verbally sharing key findings with your client can help maintain engagement and foster valuable discussion that can lead to program improvement.
  • Plan to share interim findings on a schedule that maximizes the potential for actions based on evaluation findings. Be aware of the program cycle so that program implementers have ample time to refine the program based on findings. 
  • Consider your relationship with the client and the stakes of the evaluation when determining how to share program challenges or weaknesses in a productive way.
    • Use stakeholder voices to identify and share recommendations for program improvement. If your participants identify challenges or suggestions for improvement, consider incorporating quotes when sharing these findings and offering solutions.
    • o   If the program did not meet an expected outcome, be transparent about the evidence you have to support the finding and identify potential solutions, which may include a different approach, or suggesting who might be involved in making changes to the program, as well as how you as the evaluator can provide ongoing feedback. 

Rad Resources:

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Arts, Culture, and Museums (ACM) TIG Week. The contributions all week come from ACM TIG members. 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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