AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

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My name is Robert McCowen and I am a doctoral fellow in Western Michigan University’s Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Evaluation. I served as a session scribe at Evaluation 2010, and attended session number 651, Introduction to Evaluation and Public Policy. My evaluation interests focus on education, and a great deal of modern educational policy flows from the top down—so it only makes sense to find out as much as possible about how policy is made, and how evaluators can make sure their voices are heard.

Lessons Learned: George Grob, the presenter, has a long history of involvement with evaluation and government. Among his many past positions is a 15-year term as the Director of the Inspector General’s Office of Evaluation and Inspections. He had a number of wise statements for evaluators:

  • “Home runs” do happen in government, but that’s not how games are won. Rejoice if your work finds instrumental use in legislation or regulation, but don’t make it your only goal.
  • Get to know the gatekeepers in government, whether at the federal and state level. Work with them, listen to them, keep them informed, be willing to respect their schedules, and you’ll have a much easier time making sure your reports get to where they can do the most good.
  • Know the relevant body of work when you deal with policymakers. Assume they know everything important about the topics they deal with (because they might), and strive to do the same.
  • When writing reports, you have maybe two pages to catch the eye and make a case for your conclusions. Make sure your best evidence and most compelling findings are obvious to readers.
  • Be as professional as possible, including making sure your integrity and independence are unimpeachable—but be careful to keep lines of communication and cooperation open with major policymakers and other stakeholders.

Great Resource: Mr. Grob’s presentation is an excellent resource for any evaluator who is new to dealing with government, and can be found here at the AEA public eLibrary.

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. This week’s scribing posts were done by the students in Western Michigan University’s Interdisciplinary PhD program. 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.

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Susan Kistler on Joining AEA

Happy New Year! My name is Susan Kistler and I am the Executive Director for the American Evaluation Association. Today I’m writing to the aea365 readers who are not members of AEA, to encourage you to join the association for 2011.

Hot Tip: Membership in AEA is only $80/year ($30 for students), and easily pays for itself. You can join online.

Why join?

Hot Tip – AEA members have access to four of the leading evaluation journals: Members receive hardcopy and electronic subscriptions to AEA’s own journals, The American Journal of Evaluation and New Directions for Evaluation, as well as electronic access to Evaluation Review and Evaluation and the Health Professions. You’ll receive not only the latest articles, but also 20+ years of archival content. AEA365 contributors regularly recommend journal readings (see 12/29, 12/26, 12/24 from the past week alone!).

Hot Tip – AEA members engage with the field’s thought leaders: For one week each month AEA hosts a leader in the field on its members-only Thought Leaders Forum. The discussant shares insights, explores issues, and answers your questions. You can lurk in the background and take it all in, or dive in and discuss. Coming soon? Michael Scriven in January and Melvin Hall in February.

Hot Tip – AEA members promote their business: Whether you are an independent consultant or part of a 100 person firm, AEA membership gives you a free listing of your evaluation-related services in AEA’s Find-an-Evaluator database. Directly accessible from the homepage, the FAE listings are among the most highly used sections of the AEA website.

Hot Tip – AEA members attend free coffee-break webinars: Each month, we host 3-4 20-minute webinars that demonstrate a tool or provide insight into a methodology or theory. Topics in the works for 2010 include one each on collaborative, participatory, and empowerment evaluation, an exploration of photo journaling, and tips for strengthening your evaluation reports. Membership also gives you access to the recorded archives!

Hot Tip – AEA members have a voice in their association: As an AEA member, you’ll regularly have opportunities to provide input to comments on legislation, to make your voice heard to the Board, and to take advantage of AEA volunteer opportunities.

Hot Tip – AEA members stay abreast of happenings in the field: Each month, AEA members receive an electronic calendar and newsletter. The newsletter’s Policywatch column keeps you up to date on issues in the US Federal government. The Tech Talk column helps you make the most of the online resources available for evaluators. Other articles provide insight into the people and events shaping the field, announce new books, and ensure that you know what is happening within your association.

Hot Tip – AEA members save money: AEA full members receive discounts on the AEA Annual Conference ($80 off), workshops ($50 off per full-day workshop), the AEA/CDC Summer Evaluation Training Institute ($50 off registration), and on books ordered directly from our publishing partners (20% off from SAGE, Jossey-Bass/Wiley, Guildford, and Lyceum).

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

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