Future Directions for AEA’s Competencies by John LaVelle and Yuanjing Wilcox

This is John LaVelle, Louisiana State University, and Yuanjing Wilcox, EDucation EValuation EXchange, members of AEA’s Competencies Task Force. Task Force members recently shared the 2/24/16 draft AEA evaluator competencies in five domains: professional, methodology, context, management, and interpersonal. Feedback in coming months will enable us to finalize the set in preparation for two very important engagement activities: (1) a survey of all members to determine the extent to which they agree that these competencies are the right ones for AEA, and (2) a formal vote on the competencies, including a process for their routine revision, thereby making them an official AEA document.

Hot Tip: Keep your eyes open because he Task Force is working on creating professional development materials to enable evaluators, wherever they work, to use the competencies to reflect on their practice and to assess specific needs.  We believe that it is in the reflection process that the explicit value of the competencies will shine as evaluators use them to shape effective practice.  For example:

  • Novice evaluators, those entering the field who want to identify areas of strength and need for development
  • Accidental evaluators, people who may not have formal training, but who are responsible for conducting evaluations
  • Professionals in transition, such as those who may be experts in a particular field, but who want to become competent evaluators in that specific area
  • Experienced professional evaluators, who want to stay abreast of changes in the field’s practice and theory

We envision an individual assessment process similar to that used for the Essential Competencies for Program Evaluators (http://www.cehd.umn.edu/OLPD/MESI/resources/ECPESelfAssessmentInstrument709.pdf) and an interactive process that groups of evaluators (e.g., members of a firm, students in a cohort) could use to customize the competencies to their specific settings.

Lessons Learned: Feedback on the first draft of AEA competencies raised the question of to what extent individual evaluators need to demonstrate each of the competencies because many evaluators work in collaborative groups. We added one competency (Interpersonal Domain 5.7) to address the fact that for many evaluators teamwork skills are essential. We believe that the question of whether the entire set of competencies should apply to individual evaluators versus teams is context-dependent; we invite people to use the competencies as suits their settings and practice.

Rad Resources: If you are interested in a quick orientation to the world of evaluator competencies, consider these three readings:

  • King, J. A., Stevahn, L., Ghere, G., & Minnema, J. (2001). Toward a taxonomy of essential evaluator competencies.  American Journal of Evaluation, 22(2), 229-247.
  • Russ-Eft, D., Bober, M. J., de la Teja, I., Foxon, M. J., & Koszalka, T. A. (2008). Evaluator competencies: Standards for the practice of evaluation in organizations.  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Wilcox, Y., & King, J. A. (2014). A professional grounding and history of the development and formal use of evaluator competencies. Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation, 28(3), 1-28.
  • Buchanan, H., & Kuji-Shikatani, K. (2014). Evaluator competencies: The Canadian experience. Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation, 28(3), 29-47.

Hot Tip: See you at #eval17 where we hope to unveil the final draft competencies!

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.

3 thoughts on “Future Directions for AEA’s Competencies by John LaVelle and Yuanjing Wilcox”

  1. The competencies are well thought out. Also, getting input from AEA members, the “owners” of AEA, is to be strongly commended. Great and hard work by the Task Force.

    I have a couple questions that might be addressed, if not done so already, by the Competencies Task Force as it works toward writing an official AEA document.

    In general, AEA’s Board must be able to articulate the worth of the competencies to its members. Worth implies absolute costs (efficiency) and relative costs (priority or opportunity cost). This translates into worth of results, that is, the worth to member (recipients) results.

    This brings me to AEA’s four End Goals. My questions are: How do the competencies relate to the overall End Goals? Second, which specific competency(s), domains, relate to each of the four End Goals?

    1. Evaluator have the skills and knowledge to be effective, culturally competent, contextually sensitive, and ethical professionals.

    2. Evaluators share and benefit from a sense of professional affiliation.

    3. There is broad growth in the visibility and perceived value of evaluation.

    4. AEA Members value their membership.

    Certainly, the Competencies Task Force has had discussion related to these questions. My concern is about articulating the worth (results) of the competencies for AEA’s Board to justify their acceptance and implementation as it relates directly AEA policy(s), and subsequently, for the Executive Director to implement necessary programs and activities.

    Thank you for asking for comments. Much appreciated.


  2. Elisabeth Roberts

    Could you please repost the original draft of the new evaluation competencies (2/16 version) and let us know when the next draft and round of feedback is expected to happen? I missed the original post and am interested in how the AEA competencies differ from the UMN ones (in other words, why two?) Thanks much for your work in this area.

  3. Molly de Marcellus

    I am delighted that these competencies are being developed and articulated! Evaluators and others who are concerned about creating learning organizations can use them to more deliberately foster skills transfer to and evaluative thinking in technical, program, managerial, and administrative staff.

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