Inspiring data excitement at Evaluation 2019 by Tia Bastian and Carolina De La Rosa Mateo

Hi! We are Tia Bastian and Carolina De La Rosa Mateo at Professional Data Analysts (PDA), a public health evaluation firm based in Minneapolis, MN. We look forward to meeting many of you at the annual AEA conference this week!

Have you ever had that feeling of sheer giddiness when you get your first peek at data you worked so hard to collect? What surprises will you find? What new insights will be revealed? The anticipation is exhilarating. At PDA, we know that feeling so well that we embrace it as one of our core values – inspiring data excitement! We want to push the evaluation community to not only share in our data excitement, but also to reflect on what we are doing to engage all stakeholders in the data interpretation and sharing process. We invite you to engage with our display at Evaluation 2019: Paths to the Future of Evaluation by participating in activities to reflect on and generate ideas for inspiring stakeholder engagement with data. We offer the following tips for inspiring data excitement among evaluation stakeholders:  

  1. Create an interesting display: Present data in a way that is visually appealing and easy to understand for different audiences. This may include using data viz techniques, or using non-traditional methods. Come to the PDA display at Evaluation 2019 to collectively create a data string art masterpiece with fellow conference-goers.
  2. Make it interactive: Engage your stakeholders! Part of creating data excitement is interpreting data through a collaborative process with stakeholders who help shape the story of what the data reveals. Stop by our display to share your creative ideas for engaging stakeholders with data and then follow @PDAeval on Twitter to see the responses.
  3. Have fun! Data can feel intimidating sometimes, so we try to ease some of that discomfort by making it fun. Have fun meeting new people at Evaluation 2019 by picking up a “People Bingo” card at our 2nd floor display. Be the first to get BINGO and win a cool prize!
  4. Encourage critical reflection: After we’ve shared the story the data reveals, it’s time to reflect on the process and think through what we can do better. Who told the story? What was included or excluded? Who listened? After Evaluation 2019, PDA will reflect on what you all shared with us and report back in a follow-up AEA365 post. So, stay tuned!

Rad Resources:

  • Participatory analysis is a method that helps evaluators and stakeholders make meaning out of the data. Here is an overview of the process from Learning for Action.
  • Data walks are another strategy to engage stakeholders in data interpretation. Here is one example of how to use data walks to share data with communities presented by the Urban Institute.
  • Data placemats can help facilitate learning conversations, as shown in this previous AEA365 post from the Department of Evaluation and Learning at Jewish Family and Children’s Service Boston.

We look forward to seeing many of you at the conference!

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.

2 thoughts on “Inspiring data excitement at Evaluation 2019 by Tia Bastian and Carolina De La Rosa Mateo”

  1. Hello,
    I am an elementary school teacher from Canada currently enrolled in a course on program evaluation as part of my Professional Masters of Education in assessment and evaluation. I currently teach Grade 1 in the UK, but I have also taught Grade 5 in the Middle East. I thoroughly enjoyed your article as I could relate to it because you are so enthusiastic about data!
    At my school, each teacher joins a strategic initiatives group; I am part of the data group! The data group always talks about how interesting we think data is and how excited we get when we see sets of data, test scores, spreadsheets, etc.; however, we acknowledge that this isn’t the case for everyone. I really appreciate not only your own passions for data, but that you discuss the importance of data excitement and inspiring this within the evaluation community and with involved stakeholders.
    We’ve been talking about the idea of implementing teacher-led PD sessions on data use and seeing data as something to be inspired by and regularly used in one’s practice. With the current Covid-19 situation, this has proven challenging as everything PD-related is virtual as we can’t mix between the grade levels. Your ideas of creating interesting displays and using lots of visuals would make a great impact during virtual PD – our presentations will be much clearer when our coworkers can look at interesting graphics or tangible alternative examples, such as the Skittles example you mentioned.
    This idea of illustrating data in non-traditional ways really stood out to me. I think that, for those new to the field of data, data can be quite intimidating, especially when you are bombarded with spreadsheets, percentages, lists of scores/grades, etc. – it can all seem overwhelming and turn people off of data use. If we want people to be excited about data and to get them using it more in their teaching practice, it’s important that we show them how accessible data can be and that it can be shown and understood in more ways than the traditional spreadsheet.
    I also think people often perceive data interpretation/use as an independent task; however, as you mentioned, data needs to be a collaborative activity! We all interpret information differently, see different trends, etc. When we analyze data as a group, we are able to collectively make sense of the data and ask each other questions, bounce ideas off of one another, etc.
    Thanks so much for your article – I’m even more excited than I was to be a part of my school’s data initiative group!

  2. Thank you Tia Bastian and Caroline De La Rosa Mateo for your article on inspiring data excitement.
    I am a master’s student at Queen’s University, enrolled in a program evaluation course. This has been my first look into program evaluation and I have not previously been inspired by data! You have given me a different way of looking at data and I am so thankful for your article.
    I loved the idea of using coloured beads or skittles to illustrate a data set and the idea of making data chocolates (one of your Rad Resources). I see a theme here, I like the data presentation methods that involve food!
    Having a narrative attached to data seems of utmost import to me. When you highlight critical reflection, you give a list of questions that are important to consider. When you present data, do you answer your own questions? Or are questions, left open for stakeholders to discuss and answer independently? I see that data can inspire a lot of different questions. Is there a time when an evaluator gives a definitive answer to these questions, or is the ultimate benefit (for stakeholders) in musing and pondering?

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