Molly Engle on Evaluation as an Everyday Activity
Hello. I am Molly Engle, the Evaluation Specialist for the Oregon State University Extension Service and a past president of the AEA. For over 10 years my role has been building evaluation capacity and providing evaluation resources to over 250 faculty members. Although these individuals are well educated in their content expertise covering a wide range of community-based topics (such as obesity, physical activity, silviculture, invasive species, integrated pest management, cereal crops, youth development, incarcerated youth, among others), they are not evaluators. Consequently, evaluation feels monumental to them. I have developed the following approach to decreasing that feeling.
Hot Tip: I believe that evaluation is an everyday activity. If that is so (which I believe), then why does it FEEL so monumental–you know–over whelming, daunting, aversive even? Evaluation to be effective must be manageable, workable, and useful.
I can think of several reasons for that feeling:
- You don’t know how.
- You don’t want to (do evaluation).
- You have too much else to do.
- You don’t like to (do evaluation).
- Evaluation isn’t important.
- Evaluation limits your passion for your program.
All those are good reasons. Yet, in today’s world you have to show your programs are making a difference. You have to provide evidence of impact. To do that (show impact, making a difference) you must evaluate your program.
Rad Resource: My evaluation blog, Evaluation is an everyday activity, helps make evaluation manageable because it looks at evaluation in small amounts.
Hot Tip: How do you make your evaluation manageable? How do you make it an everyday activity? Here are several ways.
- Set boundaries around what you evaluate.
- Limit the questions to ones you must know. Michael Patton says only collect data you are going to use, then use it.
- Evaluate key programs, not every program you conduct.
- Identify where your passion lies and focus your evaluation efforts there.
- Start small. You probably won’t be able to demonstrate that your program ensured world peace; you will be able to know that your target audience has made an important change in the desired direction.
Rad Resource: To read more about evaluation and use, see Michael Quinn Patton’s book, Utilization-Focused Evaluation. His new 4th edition is awesome.