OL-ECB TIG Week: Want to Be a Better Evaluator? Watch TV by JoAnna Hillman

Professional photo of JoAnna Hillman wearing a blue blouse and a coral blazer.
JoAnna Hillman

I’m JoAnna Hillman, Director of the Center for Program Evaluation and Quality Improvement with Emory Centers for Public Health Training and Technical Assistance. As an evaluator, I see evaluation in EVERYTHING. EVERYDAY. At times, I feel a little like Michael Constantine’s character, Gus Portokalos, in My Big Fat Greek Wedding when he repeatedly says “Give me a word, any word, and I show you that the root of that word is Greek.” Give me a word, any word, and I’ll show you how it’s connected to evaluation.

So, I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you that even when I’m vegging out on the couch on a Friday night, my brain is making rich and deep connections to the field of evaluation. A friend recently introduced me to a show on Netflix called The Home Edit. The show features two women helping to “reinvent traditional organizing, and merge it with design and interior styling.” As I settled in on the couch to watch it with my bowl of Boom Chicka Pop Kettle Corn, I quickly fell in love with their methods of organizing and most importantly, their decision-making process for how to categorize and organize people’s personal belongings.

The hosts organize items, like with like, and put them into “zones.” WHOA. This reminds me a lot of coding and conducting thematic analysis (I warned you. Give me any word.). If you want to see what I am talking about, I’d recommend the following two episodes, “Neil Patrick Harris and a Brooklyn kitchen” and “Jordana Brewster and youth center.” Watch them and see how the hosts discuss the possible groupings and zones. Watch them struggle with what fits and what doesn’t, and how to handle that. These are all real challenges we face as evaluators. Watch until the end, when you can see the beautiful, visual result of all this “sense making.” It’s how I feel about evaluation every day.

Hot Tips

When working with people who are intimidated by evaluation concepts, encourage them to look around in their everyday life for little bites of evaluation professional development. What can a show like The Home Edit teach us about qualitative evaluation? What can a game show like Family Feud (my favorite) teach us about surveys? What can Naked and Afraid’s Primal Survival Rating teach us about establishing evaluation criteria? Lessons in evaluation are all around us!

Where have you seen evaluation in pop culture? Think about TV shows, movies, or books, and share your favorites and how you think they connect to evaluation in the comments below!

Happy binge watching!


The American Evaluation Association is hosting Organizational Learning and Evaluation Capacity Building (OL-ECB) Topical Interest Group Week. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from our OL-ECB TIG 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. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.