Theory & Practice Week: Getting to Know You: The Necessity of Evaluator Reflection by Cherie Avent

Hi Everyone! My name is Cherie Avent, and I am a second year Ph.D. student at the University of North Carolina Greensboro with a focus on program evaluation and research methods. I have been fortunate to work on diverse evaluation projects in which the faculty allow students to lead and select the theory that would serve as a guide for our purpose or aim. However, recent discussions in classes and with peers have centered on knowing self and the connections to theoretical orientation. I realized I had been working on evaluation projects without fully considering my own beliefs/values and the theoretical orientation from which I want to work. As a result, I was unaware of how my beliefs/values affected the evaluation designs, processes, and interactions with stakeholders.

Many scholars argue the need for critical reflection on these topics, but I wonder, how many of us do it. Particularly for novice evaluators, can we articulate who we are, what we believe/value, the role we serve, how knowledge is constructed, and other worldviews? Are we aware of how these answers shape our theoretical orientation? Are we able to articulate our theoretical orientation? Answers to these questions frame our approach and methods. The AEA Guiding Principles for Evaluators emphasizes the importance of self-reflection and being explicit about the role one’s beliefs play in the conduct of evaluation.

Lesson Learned: Begin self-reflecting early
It’s important to spend time reflecting on one’s beliefs and values because they show up in every aspect of our work. The reflection can begin with questions such as, who am I? What do I believe/value? How do my personal and professional experiences affect me as an evaluator? Then move into more complex questions: Why am I doing this work?  What do I believe the role of an evaluator is and what would I like my role to be? How do I believe knowledge is constructed? I am now starting to explore these questions, and I invite you to do the same.Hot Tip 1: Develop a small group/network to share your thoughts, dilemmas, and difficulties as a way to work through these questions. By dialoguing, you can help each other in understanding, clarifying, and expanding perspectives. More specifically, it enhances our ability to express our theoretical orientations to others verbally. The interactions might occur in-person, over the phone, or via online methods. There’s no limit!

Rad Resources:

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Theory and Practice week. The aea365 contributions all this week come from Dr. Ayesha Boyce and her University of North Carolina Greensboro graduate students’ reflections on evaluation theory and practice. 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.

4 thoughts on “Theory & Practice Week: Getting to Know You: The Necessity of Evaluator Reflection by Cherie Avent”

  1. Hi Cherie
    Thanks for sharing such an insightful post!
    I am a student, enrolled in a Professional Master’s of Education degree at Queen’s University. I’m currently completing a course on Program Inquiry and Evaluation and we’ve been tasked with finding an interesting post at AEA365 and commenting on it.
    Your post really resonated with me. Bias is something that stays front of mind for me in my day-to-day interactions but you’ve got me thinking about it in a new way! Taking time to evaluate our own values and beliefs as they relate to our approach to evaluation is a nuance I’d not considered before.
    Would you recommend that with each new evaluation approached, we take time to self-reflect in light of the content of the program to be evaluated? More generally, I suppose I’m asking: how specific and frequent should these self-reflections be?
    Thanks again,

    1. I missed an “a particular” in my penultimate paragraph. The sentence should read “Taking time to evaluate our own values and beliefs as they relate to our approach to ‘a particular’ evaluation is a nuance I’d not considered before.” In other words, I’d not thought about stepping back and taking time to evaluate our preconceptions, values and beliefs in a standalone way in light of the particular context of an evaluation to be undertaken.

      Thanks again for such a thought-provoking post,

  2. Alexa Michelle Easterling-Walker

    On the basis of this blog entry, I believe that one’s personal values and beliefs are a reflection of who they are along with what our self-actualizing potential entails. The importance of self-reflection is an intuitive process as to who one is and they can, will, and must do or bring about in their chosen academic field leading to working in a full-time profession they are passionate about. The need for taking time to observe our psyche is delving in the past life experiences leading up to what one has become. The philosophical outlook of this blog entry speaks volumes regarding the inner self and questions such as who am I? and what do I believe/value are reflective viewpoints when engaging, evaluating, and interpreting ourselves. When one has developed a conclusion of who they are and their vision they are able to showcase their potential along with observing others surrounded by them.

  3. Alexa Easterling-Walker

    For starters, “it’s important to spend time reflecting on one’s beliefs and values because they show up in every aspect of our work.” The conviction of this statement speaks volumes as it sheds light on reflecting on ourselves based on philosophical reasoning. As mentioned, such questions including, “who am I? what do I believe/value? how do my personal and professional experiences affect me as an evaluator?” all lie in what one can do to improve on their self-actualizing potential. In getting to know oneself, this aspect of inquiring helps us realize what we are capable of leading to self-confidence, skill-driven, and achieving potential. On the other end, networking is a beneficiary which helps people of varying professions to branch out and meet others of similar interests leading to exchanging “thoughts, dilemmas, and difficulties.”

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