Scribing: Bonnie Stabile on Teaching About Specific Aspects of Evaluation

My name is Bonnie Stabile and I teach Program Evaluation in the MPA and MPP programs at George Mason University.  I served as a session scribe at Evaluation 2010 and attended session number 535, Teaching About Specific Aspects of Evaluation.  I chose this session because I am interested in learning about innovative facets of the field to share with my students, and always hoping to hear of ways to enhance classroom instruction.

Lessons Learned: Topics covered in this valuable session addressed the enduring question of how to incorporate qualitative considerations into a quantitatively focused evaluation class, the compelling question of how to incorporate social justice considerations into the teaching of evaluation, and the practical, yet critically important, consideration of how to develop evaluation reports that are “useful, user-friendly and used.”

Session chair John Stevenson of the University of Rhode Island shared his means for inculcating an appreciation for “qualitative knowing” in his psychology students as they approach their evaluation endeavors, by including exercises using a “cultural review,” a participatory research role play, and an ethical reflection, all inspired by the work of Ian Shaw of the University of York.

Veronica Thomas of Howard University and Anna Madison of the University of Massachusetts, Boston urged the infusion of a social justice perspective into graduate evaluation training.  They argue that faculty and students should not focus solely on theory, methods and practice in evaluation classes, but should also consider the social inequalities that shape both problem identification and programmatic efforts to resolve social problems.  Thomas and Madison advocate a rejection of the position that knowledge is neutral and untainted by human interests, and the inclusion of course work and experiences that help students recognize social inequities and privilege.

Tamara Walser of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington outlined a four- step means for improving evaluation reports that she requires of her students.  The first step is to create charts, graphs and tables from the data; the second step is to outline the story the data tells through the effective use of headings and subheadings; the third step is to write the narrative using story-telling (but not creative writing!) techniques; and the fourth step is to choose the very best illustrations of the main findings from among the charts, graphs and tables for inclusion in the report, while relegating supporting documentation to the appendix.

Great Resources: The following items are recommended for further exploration of this session’s topics:

  • Ian Shaw, Qualitative Evaluation, Sage Publications, 1999.
  • Veronica Thomas and Anna Madison, “Integration of Social Justice into the Teaching of Evaluation,” American Journal of Evaluation 31 (4), 2010.*

*AEA members have free access to all articles from the American Journal of Evaluation, via the AEA website.


At AEA’s 2010 Annual Conference, session scribes took notes at over 30 sessions and we’ll be sharing their work throughout the winter on aea365. 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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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