CDC Week: Reflecting on our Practice: CDC’s Evaluator Self-Assessment by Sarah Gill

My name is Sarah Gill, and I’m a behavioral scientist on the evaluation team in CDC’s Program Performance and Evaluation Office (PPEO). Our team works across the Agency to build evaluation capacity in public health programs. In addition to providing training and consultations, we create evaluation resources, like the checklists Tom mentioned in Tuesday’s post. Today’s post highlights our Evaluator Self-Assessment.

The self-assessment is a professional development tool that can be useful to evaluators at any career stage. Novice evaluators might use it to identify the next few things they want to learn, while more seasoned evaluators might use it as a cue to reflect on how they’ve handled certain situations, for example, “working with stakeholders to address negative or unexpected findings” (step 5, item j in the assessment).

CDC’s Framework for Program Evaluation in Public Health provides the structure for the self-assessment. In PPEO, we’re always looking for ways to reinforce the full evaluation cycle, and so we’ve mapped evaluation tasks on to the six steps of the Framework. We reviewed the self-assessment against AEA’s evaluator competencies to make sure they’re all covered in some fashion, and they are, although at a more granular or applied level.

For each skill, the self-assessment asks you to rate your competence at that skill as well as its importance to you. The last section asks you to summarize your assessment. This format is helpful for prioritizing—at this stage in my career, I’m not embarrassed to tell you that I scored a “1” (not at all competent) on “analyzing data using  non-parametric tests,” but I also rated that as a “1” on importance (not at all important). Thus, I won’t add that to my list of top areas for professional development.

Completing the self-assessment takes about 20 minutes, although I recommend spending a little more time and really thinking about the evidence for your score on each item. Done this way, the tool becomes an opportunity for deeper professional reflection. And with that, you’ve made progress on one of the evaluator competencies –reflecting on one’s professional practice!

Hot Tips:

  • Consider taking the self-assessment each year as you plan for AEA’s conference. The results can help you prioritize among the many great workshops and sessions. Completing the self-assessment regularly can also help gauge your progress as an evaluator.
  • It’s in the introduction to the assessment, but it bears repeating: “While not exhaustive, the assessment is an extensive list of evaluation activities. It’s unlikely that an evaluator will be an expert on every item in this assessment.” The tool offers a chance to reflect and learn, to appreciate what we know and do as evaluators. It’s not meant to highlight shortcomings.
  • You can use the self-assessment as a capacity building tool to help people see the breadth of evaluation activities. Evaluation’s not just study design and implementation—it’s much, much more!

Rad Resource: In addition to the AEA conference, AEA’s Summer Evaluation Institute provides all sorts of training once you’ve identified your learning priorities.

Disclaimer: The opinions and reflections expressed in this blog post are those of the author. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the CDC Framework for Program Evaluation in Public Health, where authors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer some history, lessons learned, resources, and thoughts about applied evaluation. 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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