How to teach a course on evaluation? by Steven E. Wallis and Bernadette Wright

We’re Steven E. Wallis, PhD of FAST and Bernadette Wright, PhD of Meaningful Evidence. We recently teamed up to write Practical Mapping for Applied Research and Program Evaluation (SAGE). Based on that textbook, and our teaching experience, this post will talk about a few key options for how to teach a course on evaluation.

Let’s say you’ve boldly chosen (or chosen boldly – it works either way) to support the evaluation community and your own career by teaching a course on evaluation. In addition to deciding where to teach a question that arises is “How to teach?”

Our fervent hope is that you did not get your higher education in a lecture hall with some old guy droning on and on. While that kind of pedagogy has its place, a wide variety of options for teaching can facilitate students’ learning (some of them make your job as teacher a lot easier, too).

Mix teaching methods

Teaching evaluation can be more effective when you build-in a mix of methods to address the variety of learning modalities that have proven effective for adult learners. Including each of the following for each topic you teach is a good idea:

  • Short presentation
  • Illustrative story from your professional experience
  • Individual and team “hands-on” activities (experiential learning)
  • Teams (and/or individuals) reporting back to the class
  • Reflection and conversation for the class as a whole

Students also learn by teaching

Another technique is to have students form groups. Each group chooses a chapter from the textbook (or other piece of subject matter). Then, the groups take turns (usually one per class session) presenting on their material, leading activities, and so on.

It’s good for the teacher to “set the stage” by introducing the class, present advanced concepts, and to summarize the key points at the end. How much of the teaching is done by the students, depends on their skill level (and yours). More tips in the “Teacher’s Guide” here.

This approach frees you to observe the process, facilitate student learning, help those individuals who are struggling, and serve as “the expert in the room” to answer the difficult questions.


Also, co-teaching is a great way to share the effort. Find a colleague who works well with you, and start the planning process together. Just remember to coordinate and clarify roles carefully to avoid confusing your students (and yourselves). In short, a wide variety of techniques can help you to teach evaluation; you can find more posts on teaching evaluation here.

Whatever you are teaching, be sure to allow sufficient time for everything you want to teach. And, remember that participants value their time. End the class on time – or let them go a few minutes early!

For our complete syllabus, teaching guide, and other valuable (and free) resources, please visit:

Hot Tips:

  • Use a variety of teaching styles to keep things interesting.
  • Surf some videos online to get ideas for new techniques.
  • Talk with your colleagues to find out what has worked best for them
  • Reflect on your own experience as a student – what worked for you and your fellow students?

What techniques have you used, and what has worked for your students? Please share your insights in the comments section below.

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.

6 thoughts on “How to teach a course on evaluation? by Steven E. Wallis and Bernadette Wright”

  1. Thanks for this! Would anyone be willing to share their intro to evaluation syllabus? I’m looking to expand my own personal library of resources.

  2. Dr. Sondra LoRe

    I absolutely love your new book! And thank you for this wonderful blog post!
    I came across your book a couple of months ago and it is FANTASTIC! I hope to have an opportunity to use it in the teaching of evaluation class in the future. In the meantime, it has become apart of the capacity building I do. It is a helpful tool for communicating with new evaluation clients, partners, and co-researchers. Thank you for this post and for your wonderful book!
    Sondra LoRe, Ph.D.
    Manager | National Institute for STEM Evaluation and Research (NISER)
    Adjunct Professor | Evaluation, Statistics, and Measurement Program, Department of Educational Psychology & Counseling

    The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
    Office of Research & Engagement
    114 Philander P. Claxton Education Building
    PH: 865-974-4962

    1. Sondra,
      Thank you so very much for your kind comments!
      If there is anything I might do to help, please let me know (for example, making an online presentation to a class. We recently did this for a University of Colorado class using the “Practical Mapping” book). Great presentation and conversation with the students!
      Many Thanks, and hope to hear from you soon,

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