PE Standards Week: Evaluating Evaluation with Standards or Evaluating Evaluator with Competencies by Sandra Ayoo

I am Sandra Ayoo, a graduate of the Evaluation Studies Program at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. As an accidental evaluator, I practiced program evaluation as a sideline job on a part-time basis for a couple of years until 2008 when I decided to make it a full-time job. Interestingly, I had no idea that program evaluations were guided by the Program Evaluation Standards or that evaluators should conform to any technical or ethical standards usual for other professional bodies. As a novice evaluator, sometimes I felt thrown in the lion’s den of powerful evaluation sponsors and clients without access to resources to protect the integrity of my practice. Now I know better. I intentionally add to my responses to RFPs that I adhere to AEA Guiding Principles for Evaluators, Statement on Cultural Competence in Evaluation, and that the quality of my evaluation report is guided by the Program Evaluation Standards.

I interacted with the Standards and Guiding Principlesfor the first time in spring 2015 in my internship class at the U of Minnesota. We used the Essential Competencies for Program Evaluators self-assessment tool  to self-reflect on our levels of proficiencies in evaluation practice. Although program evaluation is an emerging profession with its own knowledge base, professional associations, training schools, stable career opportunities, and standards of practice – key characteristics of a profession – my research on evaluation shows that non-enforcement of the Guiding Principles may affect evaluator professionalism. The AEA Evaluator Competencies, Guiding Principles, and Statement on Cultural Competence in Evaluation can help evaluators improve their professional practice while the Program Evaluation Standards identify the attributes of high quality evaluation. I am currently conducting a meta-evaluation for a UN agency to assess whether the evaluations conducted in 2019 are satisfactory or not based on the United Nations Evaluation Group (UNEG) Norms and Standards for Evaluation – very much related to the utility, feasibility, propriety, accuracy, and accountability standards. 

Lessons Learned:

My research on evaluation shows that many people started as “accidental evaluators” and that they learned and engaged with the Program Evaluation Standards, AEA Evaluator Competencies, and AEA Guiding Principles for Evaluators by attending local and national conferences offered by the associations.

Rad Resource:

Check out the AEA website for AEA Evaluator Competencies, AEA Guiding Principles, and Statement on Cultural Competence in Evaluation for Evaluators to self-reflect on your personal practice as an evaluator and the Evaluation Center at Western Michigan University website for checklist on the Program Evaluation Standards to assess the quality of your evaluation.

Hot Tip:

I learned from interviewing thought leaders in the field for my dissertation research that they use Guiding Principles for Evaluators as shields to protect their integrity as practitioners and Program Evaluation Standards to protect the quality of the evaluation reports. What would the field of program evaluation be like if more and more evaluators started using these wonderful resources and the recently approved AEA Evaluator Competencies to improve their practice?

This week, we’re diving the Program Evaluation Standards. Articles will (re)introduce you to the Standards and the Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation (JCSEE), the organization responsible for developing, reviewing, and approving evaluation standards in North America. 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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