GSNE Week: Kristin Woods on Gaining Practical Experience as a New Evaluator

I am Kristin Woods, a co-chair for the Graduate Student and New Evaluators Topical Interest Group (GSNE TIG); I am a PhD student at Oklahoma State University in the Research, Evaluation, Measurement, and Statistics program and a faculty member at Southwestern Oklahoma State University.

As a graduate student, I took an applied program evaluation course in which myself and a fellow graduate student (Brad Williams) from another department at OSU completed a program evaluation for a state agency. As new evaluators just getting our feet wet we learned a lot along the way and many times after the fact. Working with a state agency provides many challenges for an evaluator. When you add in little hands on experience by the evaluators and the multitude of job duties and busy schedules for state agency employees, it becomes a daunting task for students/new evaluators to complete successfully in a semester. However, the efforts of the faculty member (Dr. Katye Perry), the fellow classmates, and the state agency employees provided an experience unmatched by most that launched my passion for evaluation.

Hot Tip 1: Present a few programs/components for the students/new evaluators to choose from that are low stakes.

With shorter timelines, it is important that the evaluators already have a working knowledge of the evaluation model. Therefore, it is important for the students/new evaluators to have some input in the type of evaluation they will conduct. Having a low stakes evaluation creates the optimal learning environment for novice evaluators to learn from their successes and mistakes without an agency employee losing their job or a program loosing funding.

Hot Tip 2: Develop a written agreement of the project.

Students/new evaluators along with the help of the faculty/advisor/senior evaluator should develop a written agreement that includes the evaluation plan, responsibilities of all parties, a timeline that includes soft and hard deadlines, and an agreement of the final deliverables. This will allow all parties to be on the same page before the project begins and serves as a reference to keep everyone on task and on time. Additionally, many of the obstacles that might arise can be discussed and planned for before the event actually occurs ultimately making for a better learning experience. It is important that the agency provide as much information about the program before this written agreement is developed to aid the students/new evaluators in planning a low stakes, meaningful, and feasible evaluation that all parties are invested in and can be completed in the desired time frame.

Rad Resource: Students/new evaluators should join the GSNE TIG and the GSNE TIG Facebook Community Group. This is a place where one can ask questions and get advice from fellow novice evaluators who have recently/currently are in similar shoes.

The American Evaluation Association 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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