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.
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