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@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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