EEE Week: Sarah Baughman on Building Evaluation Capacity Across Disciplines: From Feral Hogs and Fire Ants to Families

Hi!  I’m Sarah Baughman, Evaluation and Research Leader for eXtension.  eXtension is the virtual presence of the Cooperative Extension System. We work with faculty from land grant universities to provide unbiased, research-based educational resources across a wide range of topics including feral hogs, fire ants, and families through our 70 communities of practice. A major aspect of my daily work is assisting communities of practice with evaluation efforts.  Although most faculty are familiar with evaluation basics the virtual work environment tends to confound faculty.

Hot Tip – Back to Basics – When working with faculty on evaluations for programs that involve social media and/or web based resources I take them back to the basics.  I help them situate their social media and virtual “tools” into the context of their programs by asking lots of questions that point back to evaluation basics such as programmatic mission, purpose and goals.  Why are they tweeting?  What do they hope to achieve through by integrating social media into their programs?

Lesson Learned – Capacity building is an on-going process.  The landscape of our work changes rapidly with new faculty on board, new technologies developed and new communities of practice forming.  As one faculty member embraces evaluation as a critical component of their work, another community of practice changes leadership necessitating renewed capacity building efforts.

Lesson Learned – Another key for working with faculty immersed in their disciplines is to show them how evaluation methodologies are similar to their research methods.  The purpose of evaluation is different than research but the methodologies are the same.

Rad Resource – Google + Hangouts have proven to be an invaluable resources for one on one or group meetings.  Hangouts are free video conferences that allow screen sharing and are mobile device friendly so busy faculty can meet from almost anywhere.  The screen sharing allows me to walk through tools with them or troubleshoot issues that are difficult to describe in other contexts.

Rad Resource – There is a lot of information on social media marketing and measurement but it is primarily aimed at for-profit businesses.  In the world of education and non-profits the goals and outcomes can be fuzzy.  Measuring the Networked Nonprofit by Beth Kanter and Katie Delahaye Paine does an excellent job of describing the importance of measuring social media and more importantly, how measurement can help change practice.

Rad Resource – One of the eXtension communities of practice is devoted to helping Extension professionals evaluate programs and demonstrate programmatic impacts. Their work is helpful to non-formal or informal educators, non-profits and anyone working on evaluation in a complex, decentralized environment. Connect with us at @evalcop or

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Extension Education Evaluation (EEE) TIG Week with our colleagues in the EEE Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our EEE 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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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