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Bonnie Stabile on Adapting Student Research Papers

Hi, I’m Bonnie Stabile, an Adjunct Professor in the School of Public Policy, and the Department of Public and International Affairs at George Mason University, just outside of Washington, DC.  I have been teaching Program Evaluation in the Master’s in Public Policy, and the Master’s in Public Administration, Programs for three years now.  This year I instituted a “Student Practitioner Speaker Series” in which I have students who have taken the class in previous semesters come back to talk to my current students about how they have applied the evaluation principles and techniques they have learned in the class on the job.

Hot Tip: Offer Master’s students the opportunity to adapt the semester research paper to focus an evaluative eye on a project of importance to them at work.  While most students, who range in experience from recent college graduates to established career professionals, opt for the standard research paper option of doing a GAO-style evaluation synthesis of a federal program, a few jump at the chance to work on a project of practical importance to them, while applying the theories and skills of evaluation.  I have had one student, director of a local county library system, undertake a needs assessment for library services, for which there was a keen felt need in light of threatened budget cuts.  Another student, neighborhood coordinator for a local county department of public works, developed a needs assessment to determine the training requirements for property code inspectors after a work reorganization.  These students approached their task with unprecedented energy and enthusiasm, and have expressed that the projects they undertook, beginning with their evaluation class papers, actually had lasting and demonstrable utility in the workplace.  As an added bonus, they have come back to share their success stories with current students, who benefit from hearing of evaluation success stories accomplished by their peers.

This contribution is from the aea365 Daily Tips blog, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org.

2 thoughts on “Bonnie Stabile on Adapting Student Research Papers”

  1. Y0ur suggestions are right on point–especially for the students who do not intend to be academics or dopn’t know what they want to do when they grow up.” I teach a graduate level course “Public POlicy and Democracy” required for the degreee in Public Administration. I have students adapt longer research papers into op eds, so they have practice distilling complex analyses down to their essence. I encourage students to use their intial research papers as a seed for their required “capstone” project. I also bring students back to class to guest lecture–they love it and the students do as well.

  2. I love the idea of having previous students come back to talk about how they have used the evaluation principles they learned in your class. I think I may try this! My doctoral level program evaluation students typically work in education, health care/medicine, business, and counseling/human development. Many of them indicate coming in to the course that their roles at work include some degree of evaluation practice, though most have never had any formal training in it. I’d love to hear how either their roles may have changed as a result of their new knowledge and skills, or perhaps they’ve taken other positions in which they use their evaluation skills. Thanks for a great tip!

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