CP TIG Week: Theresa Armstead on Representing Values in Evaluation Practice: A Balancing Act

I am Theresa Armstead, a behavioral scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. I am a co-chair for the Community Psychology Topical Interest Group.   This week’s theme is Pursuing Meaning, Justice, and Well-Being in 21st Century Evaluation Practice. The theme is a blend of the themes from the recent biennial conference for community psychologists and the upcoming evaluation conference. For me the values reflected in the theme are participation, inclusion, collaboration, self-determination, and empowerment. The values are shared across my identities of community psychologist, evaluator, and behavioral scientist. In practice it is sometimes challenging to strike a balance between these values and evaluation expectations in government.

Hot Tip: Whenever possible I use checklists and templates to describe the information and content I need without prescribing how the information should be collected. I did this recently when providing guidance to grant recipients on conducting evaluability assessments. I used a checklist to identify common components of an evaluability assessment and some strategies for gathering information. I provided a template for reporting the findings that focused on the questions to be answered without prescribing how the report should appear. I am hoping all the reports will be brief and use data visualizations.

Hot Tip: Evaluability assessments (EAs) are a great way to meet the need for accountability and to be flexible.  Instead of prescribing the types of evaluation designs, methods, and plans across all grant recipients, EAs help each grant recipient clarify the type of evaluation that is most helpful for the programs and strategies they plan to implement. The resulting evaluation plan is data informed because of the thoughtful and systematic nature of EAs.

Lesson Learned:

–        There are opportunities to create space for participation, collaboration, and self-determination even when the focus is more on the end results than the process.

Rad Resources:

–        Check out Susan Kistler’s last contribution as a regular Saturday contributor for the AEA365 blog. She wraps up the Data Visualization and Reporting week by sharing Sarah Rand’s awesome post on the DataViz Hall of Fame and an interview with Sarah Rand. http://aea365.org/blog/?p=9441

–        Valerie Williams’ post on Evaluating Environmental Education Programs. In it she describes other ways EAs are useful beyond the traditional use of determining whether a program is ready for a more rigorous evaluation and she shares Rad Resources for learning about EAs. http://aea365.org/blog/?p=6298

–        Learn more about the Community Psychology Topical Interest Group and visit our TIG home page.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating CP TIG Week with our colleagues in the Community Psychology Topical Interest Group. The contributions all week come from CP TIG members. 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

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