GSNE Week: Kate Westaby and Valerie Moody on How to Hit the Ground Running in your New Evaluation Position!

Greetings! We are Kate Westaby and Valerie Moody, new evaluators from two Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) institutes. Kate is an Evaluation Research Specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Institute for Clinical and Translational Research and Valerie is the Evaluation Coordinator at the University of Iowa Institute for Clinical and Translational Science. At the 62 CTSA institutes nationwide, program evaluation is a complex, dynamic, unpredictable environment, mandated by NIH, but implemented in a wide variety of ways by evaluators with diverse backgrounds.

Due to our personal efforts learning to adapt to these complicated surroundings, we wanted to know if there were best practices for new evaluators to orient themselves to their workplaces. Last year, we interviewed 16 new evaluators from 14 CTSA institutes to gather the most helpful strategies for learning about evaluation, thus allowing new evaluators to hit the ground running.

I felt it was like putting together a 1000 piece puzzle, but nobody gave you the cover,” — quote from a new CTSA evaluator.

Hot Tip 1: Learn the history of evaluation efforts at your workplace.New evaluators found this to be the most helpful strategy. Many suggested using programmatic documents (e.g., grant proposals, strategic goal documents, etc.) to find useful historical information. They were better able to understand evaluation needs and review progress towards those needs in a short period of time.

Hot Tip 2: Attend face-to-face meetings (or a conference) with evaluators who are doing similar work. This setting allowed new evaluators to hear what strategies others are using, what their struggles have been, and how they turned their struggles into successes. It also allowed them to establish face-to-face networks for future communication.

Hot Tip 3: Ask questions! Supervisors or colleagues can provide insight into program history, politics, and help you avoid reinventing the wheel. Don’t be afraid to speak up!

Rad Resource: For more tips on how to get comfortable in your new workplace or to look into which strategies were least helpful to our interviewees, check out our AEA 2013 poster below (or download a larger version from AEA’s public elibrary here).

GSNE poster

AEA is celebrating GSNE Week with our colleagues in the Graduate Student and New Evaluators AEA Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our GSNE 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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