Marybeth Neal on Using a Wall to Engage Stakeholders

I’m Marybeth Neal, I am a cultural anthropologist that uses ethnographic methods to engage stakeholders in creating their own ongoing systems of evaluation.

This summer I had the absolutely delightful experience working with a brilliant group of teens and young adults who train both youth and adult members of social change organizations on how to create effective youth-adult partnerships.

They wanted to create a pre-test and then two post-tests (given immediately following the training and then six months later) to accompany their Youth Adult Partnership training.  The purpose of these tests were multiple:

  • To offer constructive feedback to the trainees and their organizations.
  • To document and share the results of the training with external audiences (funders and potential clients), and
  • For internal use (to improve the training and to customize it for particular audiences).

Together we created a simple logic model for the project, which came to be known as “the Grid.” The Grid functioned as a “sticky wall” where stakeholders could contribute their own ideas (using post-its).

Hot Tip:

We put the Grid on a wall of the office by the kitchen area – a popular spot!  It listed, in separate columns:

  • What are the desired learning outcomes of our training?
  • What are the training activities that teach these outcomes?
  • How do we know and how can we measure the extent to which participants and their organizations are learning what is being taught?

In addition, in the upper right hand corner, we asked:

Why do we want to create assessment tools?

In its simplicity, this visual representation of the project helped everyone to understand the complexity of the project and to contribute to it.  It was an efficient way to define key concepts used in the training, to make sure that each learning objective had a corresponding activity that taught the objective, and that we did not forget why we were doing this work.   Most importantly, it offered a way for the trainers’ to share their wisdom about how to recognize successful learning both for the individual trainees and for their organizations.

Rad Resource:  We used the Descriptive Question Matrix in The Ethnographic Interview by James P. Spradley to help us generate survey questions that could be used to measure changes in knowledge, skills and dispositions.  Spradley pioneered the teaching of ethnographic methods to undergraduates and this book and its companion book. Participant Observation, are simple, accessible and profound.

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