Best of aea365 week: Derrick Gervin on Tips for New Evaluators

My name is Derrick Gervin and I currently work as a Lead Evaluator at The Evaluation Group (TEG) in Atlanta, Georgia. I work with school systems and nonprofit organizations to improve student achievement. After completing my first six months as a full-time evaluator, I would like to share some tips with other newcomers to evaluation.

Hot Tips:

  • Look inside: Identify your strengths and how they may be used in the evaluation. I realized early on that the field of evaluation was too diverse for me to know everything so I chose to pull from my strengths as a social work practitioner.
  • Relationship building: The more you know about your client and their work, the better you can meet their evaluation needs. I’ve taken to doing a Google search of both the client’s organization and key people in the organization – going beyond just their website helped me to uncover valuable information to assist in my work. Also, I take advantage of opportunities to interact with clients during special events (i.e., career fairs, book festivals, and trainings).
  • Build trust and be accessible: Make commitments and keep them. Ask clients for their input. Set aside time to be available to clients and return calls and emails as soon as possible. I have monthly evaluation meetings to discuss successes and challenges. Also, I spend as much time as possible on site meeting with project staff and observing processes.
  • Get Organized: Find an organizing system that works for you. Also, plan to do as much project management as direct evaluation work. Especially, when projects are at the beginning stage. I’ve found a need to take continuing education classes in time management and the use of Microsoft Excel. I’m constantly searching for ways to maximize my time and work more efficiently.
  • Conceptualization: Explore techniques to assist in conceptualizing planned work and expected outcomes. I regularly visit AEA365 for helpful data visualization tips and conceptualization resources. I really like DoView for creating logic models.
  • Professional Development: Take advantage of opportunities to increase evaluation knowledge and skills. Know your limitations and consult with mentors and other evaluators in the field. I’ve found my co-workers to be a great source for answering and/or talking through challenging evaluation related issues. I participate in monthly lunch and learn sessions, as well as, group conference calls where we discuss and receive feedback on our evaluation projects.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Best of aea365 week. The contributions all this week are reposts of great aea365 blogs from our earlier years. 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.

1 thought on “Best of aea365 week: Derrick Gervin on Tips for New Evaluators”

  1. Derrick,

    I found your article as a recommended “Rad Resource” from Sara Vaca’s March 3, 2018 article entitled, “6 Tips for New Evaluators.” I am currently undergoing my first course in program evaluation through Queens’ University and find it a daunting experience. I am an teacher interested in implementing the SIOP Model at the international school in Beijing where I teach. Our goal, like yours, is to improve student achievement, and we aim to do this by targeting ELLs and focus on language instruction in content areas.

    Implementing the program seemed challenging, but I feel that the evaluation process is an even bigger task. Although program evaluation seems to be a newer field of research, there a lot of background theory and research to go through before even beginning to develop an evaluation.

    I appreciated your tips to understand who you are as a person and to use your strengths as an evaluator. In addition to this course, I have also been studying self-regulation and understand the importance of keeping organized throughout the evaluation process. I also think it is key to continue professional development and network. As I am currently working in China, I wonder if you can recommend any evaluation communities or organizations I can connect with more locally?

    One of the key components of my current evaluation is involving stakeholders. Do you have any tips on how a newcomer can deal with them?

    Thanks,
    Laura McGinty

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