Mentoring Future Evaluators by Beverly Peters

Beverly Peters
Beverly Peters

Greetings! I’m Beverly Peters, an evaluator with over 25 years’ experience, mainly in southern Africa. As an Assistant Professor at American University, I teach online evaluation courses in Measurement and Evaluation.

I am very cognizant when I teach evaluation that I am training graduate students who will in the future be conceptualizing, implementing, and/or evaluating programs aimed in one way or another at improving people’s lives. This is a privilege and responsibility I take seriously, as my students will one day be decision makers who will likely have the power to change people’s lives. I have a mere semester to share practical experiences, to stress to students that as outsiders in another community or even culture, they must think through their role and the expected and unexpected consequences of their actions. I need to find ways to stress that even if we are engaging in participatory development and evaluation processes, the evaluator, the outsider, is oftentimes the one making decisions that impact other people’s social or economic development. This is what I have called the unwelcome power of the evaluator, and an important opening for me to mentor students on how to act ethically, responsibly, and professionally.  These are aspects which, difficult to learn from a textbook, I seek to integrate into interactions I have with students.

How does this relate to your work as an evaluator? Even if you do not teach evaluation courses, I venture to guess that many of you act as mentors or even train evaluation teams. How can you ensure that you encourage and train novice evaluators to act ethically, responsibly, and professionally? How can you encourage them to consider the unwelcome power of our profession?

Here’s what I have learned from more than two decades of teaching.

Hot Tips and Cool Tricks:

  • Approach mentees as colleagues, finding organic ways to prepare them for evaluation careers in a changing interdependent world where they may, for better or worse, have the power of the evaluator.
  • Respect mentees as adults who will one day make decisions that will impact the lives of others. Encourage their independent thinking, but give relevant feedback. Always encourage mentees to consider perspectives other than their own.
  • Create space for mentees to interact with you, so that mentoring, feedback, and growth become natural and exponential.
  • Challenge mentees with real life scenarios so that they consider their roles as evaluators, and how they would act ethically in any given situation.
  • Be approachable, yet aim to identify the mentees’ professional goals and shortcomings, providing advice for them to build the skills necessary to excel in evaluation today.

If even for a brief moment, your interactions with your evaluator mentees cause them to hesitate and ask what their role would be; how they can take into account local level perspectives; and how they can make a difference in the ways that we conceptualize and interact with others from diverse cultures and backgrounds, then you have been successful as a mentor and an evaluator.

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.

 

8 thoughts on “Mentoring Future Evaluators by Beverly Peters”

  1. Hi Beverly,

    I am currently taking an online course through Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario entitled Program Inquiry and Evaluation. I found your article to be very informative and served as a reminder of the role that an evaluator can play not only at the present moment, but for the future of an organization or some other cases (like yours), future evaluators and how their actions impact others. I think all of us in one way or another have experienced being evaluated or had to evaluate someone. Your “Hot Tips and Cool Tricks” section really reminded me of the characteristics needed to be a good evaluator. In particular, this course has addressed creating a safe space where dialogue and risks can be taken. Without respect and understanding from both parties, nothing will be accomplished. Being an elementary school teacher, I can relate to this in that I like to set my expectations early and they are clearly displayed in the classroom so that students can refer back to them as to what is expected of them. Having this open discussion and the students having an understanding of what they will be learning and how they will be evaluated is critical.

    You mentioned you are teaching an online course and I wonder how evaluating in this type of setting is different rather than being in class? Do you find any challenges or drawbacks to being strictly online? You mentioned teaching your students the unwelcome power of evaluation through interactions with your students. How do you carry this out in an online setting?

    Thank you for making a difference in the lives of students every single year and in an important field such as evaluation. I know through this course I am learning quite a bit about myself as an evaluator not only within my professional field, but my actions in other aspects of my life as well and I thank you for being apart of that through this article. Sharing and discussing with others who have experience with evaluation is critical in developing as an evaluator yourself and learning from others is always a great tool to grow!

    Have a great day!

    Sarah

  2. Thanks for this post, Beverly! There are so many ways that experienced evaluators can support new practitioners. At Harder+Company Community Research, we have a mix of seasoned and emerging evaluators on staff. So we think constantly about how to mentor earlier career folks. As an evaluation firm, we’ve also had the privilege of hosting short-term interns and fellows, creating a special opportunity for students and mid-career scholars to gain exposure to the field. In fact, we just produced a blog post from our most recent interns! https://harderco.com/from-the-classroom-to-the-community-reflections-from-our-summer-interns/

  3. Rocele Estanislao

    Thanks for sharing this. For the last three years, I have supervised emerging evaluators/community researchers and I have down the same things you mentioned on your tips. Yesterday was my last day at my job and the team shared how much they valued working with me and the mentorship I provided.

    1. So good to hear Rocele! You have used your mentorship to create a legacy that will likely impact the lives of evaluators and program beneficiaries for years to come. Congratulations!

  4. I love the way you keep things simple and understandable in this article. I’m also a young and emerging evaluator, and need guidance and wisdom from experts like you. Luckily, I am in DC from last month and will be in U.S. for a year on a professional fellowship. I would love to see you and meet you in person so that we discuss mutual interest.

    Looking forward,

    Best,
    Aman

    1. Thanks for your comment, Aman! Mentoring is a very important part of developing careers in evaluation. Will you be attending AEA’s Conference this year?

  5. As a current graduate student in a program evaluation course I appreciate your thoughtful tips on mentoring. The idea of creating space for dialogue between mentor and mentee really resonates and aligns with the idea of approaching mentoring as colleagues. The natural dialogue that happens between colleagues would offer a supportive environment to raise questions, concerns and areas for growth in such a way that the mentee will be more open to sharing without fear of judgement.

    I wonder about the reciprocal potential of the mentor/mentee dialogue and how these connections might support growth in the mentor as well?

    1. Good points Stephan! Interaction with mentees is an important part of this process. Over time, I have taken feedback from my mentees to change the way that I approach mentoring processes. Mentee feedback was important in the development of my “Hot Tips and Cool Tricks” above.

      Sometimes a mentee will challenge me to rethink how I approach a problem. Further interaction and discussion enriches my evaluation work and interactions with stakeholders. It is definitely a two way street!

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