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MNEA Week: Melissa Chapman Haynes on Program Evaluation Standards

Hello! I am Dr. Melissa Chapman Haynes, and I am a Senior Evaluator with Professional Data Analysts, Inc. in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In this post, I propose that the Program Evaluation Standards (PgES) is a fundamental tool that can help us reflect on the values we bring to our evaluation practice.

The five standards, all of which encompass multiple standard statements, include: Accuracy, Feasibility, Propriety, Utility, and Evaluation Accountability. More details can be found on the website for the Joint Committee for Standards in Educational Evaluation.

Hot Tip –Improving Evaluation Use: While we often think of evaluation use when we write and share evaluation results and reports, evaluation use begins from your initial interactions with a client. For example, how do you establish Evaluator Credibility, not only with the client but with stakeholders and potential evaluation users? This typically involves more than just proving that you know what you are talking about! What are the client’s perceptions and expectations of, and perhaps biases toward the evaluation? I have always found it to be a useful activity, particularly early in the evaluation, to gain an understanding of the clients’ perspectives on these issues. Establishing this line of communication early on not only helps you design a responsive evaluation, but it can also build a relationship of trust and respect.

Hot Tip- Sticky situations: Short of a crystal ball, evaluators cannot possibly anticipate every conflict that may occur during the course of an evaluation (or after). The PgES can help evaluators navigate these situations, as it is a tool that we can use to deliberately step back and reflect on the key contributing factors. If, for example, there have been shifts in key staff and leadership, the Contextual Viability of the program (and the evaluation) may need to be addressed. The PgES – particularly those related to context, Negotiated Purposes, and Propriety factors – can help us navigate our role in a sticky situation. Sometimes it is our role (perhaps responsibility, in some situations) to intervene. Other times it may be more appropriate to let things get worked out without intervention. And still other times, it may be appropriate to take the appropriate steps to cease the evaluation.

Final Word: There are countless ways that you might use the PgES. As we move forward as an association and as a profession, it is vital to continue reflections on value – our personal values, the values held by the evaluation users, and the value of evaluations to improve programs and accountability more generally. How do you think the PgES might assist us with this?

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Minnesota Evaluation Association (MN EA) Affiliate Week with our colleagues in the MNEA AEA Affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our MNEA 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@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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