ToE TIG Week: Lessons Learned at the 2019 AEA Conference: How to Improve my Teaching of Program Evaluation by Kelly McGinn

Hi! I am Kelly McGinn, Assistant Professor of Human Development and Community Engagement (HDCE) at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. As a recipient of the Sage Early Career Excellence in Teaching Evaluation Award, I reflected on how the conference presentations were able to inform my teaching.

AEA stresses the importance of incorporating the evaluator competences into one’s teaching practice. This was evident at the 2019 AEA conference, where a number of presenters integrated the five domains into their sessions. Throughout the conference, I learned many ways I could incorporate these competencies into my teaching practices. I share two of these today:

  1. Give Students Space to Process Logic Modeling and Make it Relatable and
  2. Bring Cultural Responsiveness into the Classroom through Reflection on Privilege

Lessons Learned:

1. Logic Modeling: AEA states that a competent evaluator “uses program logic and program theory as appropriate.” I have struggled to effectively teach my undergraduates to create a logic model. One presenter, Ciara Knight, a graduate student from Claremont Graduate University, discussed her teaching strategies. In groups, students create a logic model for a pre-determined program. Ciara ensures that this program is well documented and reflects the culture of her learners. For the first three days, groups build out different pieces of the model. On the fourth day, they come together as a class, writing the pieces of their model on post-it notes and placing them on the white board. Together they discuss the construction of the model and debate the various links until they agree on a sound model. I had two main take-aways from this session. One, spreading the lesson across four days allows students to fully grapple with the material. Also, choosing a program that reflects the learners is key; students are more likely to engage with the material if they are able to relate to it in some way.

2. Cultural Responsiveness: Being a culturally responsive evaluator is built into all five domains, however it most clearly stands out in the interpersonal domain. “A competent evaluator facilitates constructive and culturally responsive interaction throughout the evaluation.” Ayesha Boyce, an Assistant Professor at UNC Greensboro, explained how she builds culturally responsive lessons into her program evaluation classes by asking student to reflect on their own privilege. For instance, she has “privilege walks” and facilitates discussion around their meaning. She also presents pictures to the class (i.e., a picture of Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the anthem) and facilitates discussions around reactions to the photo. Ayesha explained how she teaches her students to talk to stakeholders about potentially sensitive topics. Another strategy she suggests is to use the logic model to have conversations around what the program finds valuable, potentially building in evaluation questions around equity and diversity. I admittedly shy away from having culturally responsive discussions with my students. Ayesha’s suggestions have provided me with a few tools to begin taking this important next step in my teaching.

Overall, the conference opened my eyes to a number of new evaluation techniques and theories, and I hope you can incorporate these takeaways into your own practice, too!

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating TOE TIG Week with our colleagues in the Teaching of Evaluation Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our TOE TIG members. 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.

HDCE is an undergraduate major in the College of Education. It is meant for students who are interested in education and how people learn and development, however do not necessarily want to become K-12 teachers. Most students enter the nonprofit world or the helping professions. Our program strives to teach our students about the theory, development, and the importance of program evaluation to their future careers. 

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