Allison Titcomb and Lenay Dunn on Evaluation Book Clubs

We’re Allison Titcomb, President of ALTA Consulting in Tucson, and Lenay Dunn, Associate Director for Research and Evaluation, University Office of Evaluation and Educational Effectiveness, Arizona State University

Maybe, like us, you’ve thought about joining a book club, but there never seems to be enough time.   How about if you combined an engaging and fun professional development experience with a book club?  That’s just what members of the Arizona Evaluation Network did in 2011 and 2012 and we’d like to recommend you try it!

Here’s what you need:

1)      A set of evaluators (and interested community members, if you’d like) who can agree on a book to read and a day/time and place to meet.

2)      A great book. Our club chose recently released books from leaders in the evaluation field. Then we worked with a locally owned bookstore to get the books special ordered with a group discount.

3)      A reasonable time frame for finishing the book. We chose to meet monthly for about 5-6 months due to busy schedules. Other groups have used different strategies, such as Plexus Institute’s Conference Call Book Club on Developmental Evaluation that read and discussed about one chapter a week.

4)      A great place to meet.  A restaurant with a courtyard like we had is an option. So are special bookstore rooms specifically for book club meetings.

5)      Someone to get the ball rolling– You can rotate facilitators, or just have a free-for-all conversation, whatever your group decides.

Some comments from our members on what they liked about the club:

  • “It was a chance to step back from practical aspects of our work and to theorize with other people.”
  • “It made me realize there’s more to evaluation than what I do.”
  • “It was a safe environment. Not intimidating for a beginner evaluator.”

Hot Tip: We think 6-8 people makes an ideal sized group, but you certainly can have fewer.  More might interfere with everyone feeling like a full participant.

Hot Tip: Don’t hesitate to let the author know what you’re up to— it’s fun for them to know a little about who’s reading their book. The two authors of the books we read (Developmental Evaluation by Michael Quinn Patton in 2011, and Evaluation in the Face of Uncertainty by Jonathan Morell in 2012) responded to our questions and generally supported  our quest to know more about their work.

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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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