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Beverly Parsons on Communities of Learning, Inquiry, and Practice (CLIPs)

My name is Beverly Parsons and I’m the executive director of InSites,  a non-profit research, evaluation, and planning organization. We use a systems orientation and conduct evaluations related to education, social services, community change, and health. I’m an AEA board member. I have a tip about how to build evaluation capacity through a type of Community of Practice.

Hot Tip: Consider using Communities of Learning, Inquiry, and Practice (CLIPs) to build evaluation capacity and develop a culture of inquiry across an organization.

CLIPs (a type of Community of Practice) are informal, dynamic groups of organizational members who learn together about their professional practice. They gather and analyze data about a question of importance to them. CLIP members learn an evaluative inquiry process with three basic steps: (1) design the inquiry; (2) collect data; and (3) make meaning and shape practice. The process has some special features to create continual renewal in the organization.  At Bakersfield College where we developed this process under a National Science Foundation grant, the CLIP members are faculty and staff. They focus their inquiries on student learning and success.

Typically, each CLIP consists of three to seven people with one person as the group facilitator. An overall CLIP Guide supports the work of multiple CLIPs at the organizational level, builds strategic linkages among the CLIPs, and connects the whole process appropriately to the organization’s other processes and initiatives. CLIPs support, and are supported by, the broader organization’s goals. CLIPs are adaptable for use in a variety of settings.

Hot Tip: The following features of CLIPs are especially important:

  • Within general parameters including a focus on the organization’s core mission, CLIPs have the freedom to select their own members and topics; set their schedules; determine their budget allocations; and tailor the inquiry process. This freedom builds internal motivation among participants and helps ensure use of results.
  • The CLIPs simultaneously focus on collaboration and inquiry, building a synergy that motivates completion of their investigation.
  • The CLIPs use guiding principles that create an energizing learning environment and promote a natural flow from inquiry to change in practice. The CLIP members are learning at all stages of the inquiry process and readying themselves for a natural shift in practice.

Rad Resources: An overview video and modules about the CLIP process are free through InSites at www.insites.org/clip. Also an article, Evaluative Inquiry in Complex Times, that addresses the link to complexity science is available at http://www.insites.org/clip/clip_reports.html .

Feel free to contact me if I can be of assistance (bparsons@insites.org). I love working with the CLIP process. Perhaps part of the reason is it’s the only time I got a standing ovation from faculty (CLIP members) for my work related to evaluation!

1 thought on “Beverly Parsons on Communities of Learning, Inquiry, and Practice (CLIPs)”

  1. Robert K. Walker

    Dear Beverly,

    Sounds great!

    I am currently doing an evaluability assessment for Unesco, related to ICT4E in Brazil (mostly federal programs). On a recent trip to Curitiba, in the south, I found several scholars working with the state and municipality on CoPs.

    I would really like to recommend some lasting capacity building in evaluation in this area, although that’s not in my ToR. Anyway, I would say my colleague Dilmeire Vosgerath, at the local Catholic university (PUCPR), has had a CLIP going at a pretty fast clip (sorry – couldn’t resist) for about 5 years, as has Hilton de Azevedo, at the technological university.

    Robert K. Walker, Ed.D.

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