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Evaluator Self-Reflection to Identify Values and Principle by Evan Poncelet

Hello, AEA365 community! Liz DiLuzio here, Lead Curator of the blog. This week is Individuals Week, which means we take a break from our themed weeks and spotlight the Hot Tips, Cool Tricks, Rad Resources and Lessons Learned from any evaluator interested in sharing. Would you like to contribute to future individuals weeks? Email me at AEA365@eval.org with an idea or a draft and we will make it happen.

Evan Poncelet

Hello, I’m Evan Poncelet, a Policy Analyst with the Nova Scotia Office of Addictions and Mental Health in Halifax, Canada. I’m also a Credentialed Evaluator providing independent consultant services to clients on the side.

A little while ago, I took some time to reflect on my values and principles. I typed my thoughts out in what has now become a useful and ever evolving document. It’s something I turn to when I’m feeling unmotivated or facing a tough decision because it reminds me what I value, why, and how. This post gives an idea of the process I went though, for those who are interested in doing something similar.

First, decide what you mean by “values” and “principles”. Widely agreed upon definitions are tough to find, but here is one understanding: Values describe the things we hold valuable or important. They are fundamental to who we are by informing our thoughts, feelings, actions, and connections with others. Closely related to values are principles, which express our values as actions. Principles offer broad guidance that can be applied across diverse contexts. For example, someone who values social equity may live by a principle like, “prioritize the fair treatment, opportunity, access, and advancement for all people.”

Hot Tip: Everyone is influenced by their values and principles whether they’re aware of them or not, making it so important to identify and critically examine them.

Then, ask yourself questions like:

  • What is important to me?
  • What would a perfect day look like? What values are represented in this choice?
  • What do I spend my free time on?
  • What do I enjoy doing?
  • What would I do if there were no limitations?

For those who like to write things down, below are examples of how a value and a related principle could be documented.

Including definitions of your values can ensure you’re clear on their meaning and reveal how your understanding shifts over time. Here is an example of a value and how it can be defined.

Self-awarenessActive contemplation on my own self (e.g., thoughts, feelings, goals, roles, actions, values) and how I relate to others.

Principles can be documented alongside the values they’re enacting, as well as examples of how the principle could be applied.

PrincipleValues Aligned with PrincipleExamples of Applying Principle
Persistent learning. “Fail often, fast, learn much”.1

* Self-awareness
* Kindness to self and others
* Accept and learn from mistakes, and encourage others to as well
* Anti-perfectionism
* Ask questions
* In new situations, own the “new guy” role
* Recognize what people can and can’t control. Don’t fret over what can’t be controlled. Plans often change.
1 Patton (2018). Principles-focused evaluation.
Lesson Learned: Values and principles apply to your whole self.

Self-reflection extends beyond professional practice because the lines between “work self” and other “selves” are artificial. Your values and principles are fundamental to your whole self, regardless of context.

Lesson Learned: Consider the cultures you exist in and how they contribute to your values and principles.

Values and culture are inextricably linked. For example, I’ve found it difficult to let go my value of perfection (e.g., striving toward unrealistic standards set by others). This isn’t surprising though, as I’ve spent most of my life in Canada, where perfectionism is deeply ingrained in cultural aspects like academia, white supremacy, materialism, and individualism.

The cultural values that surround us can be easily internalized, yet difficult to make conscious and examine critically. However, once recognized, we can address values that we no longer wish to uphold. For example, striving toward a principle of persistent learning is helping me to move on from perfectionism.

Rad Resources: The following are excellent resources for learning more about values and principles.

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 . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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