Viola, Patterson, Gray, and Boal on Reflecting on Students’ Self-Assessments of Knowledge Gained through a Program Evaluation Graduate Seminar

Our names are Wendy Viola, Lindsey Patterson, Mary Gray, and Ashley Boal and we are doctoral students in the Applied Social and Community Psychology program at Portland State University.  This winter, we took a course in Program Evaluation from Dr. Katherine McDonald.  We’d like to share three aspects of the seminar that we felt made it so useful and informative for us.

  1. Classroom Environment. The format of the course encouraged open and interactive dialogue among the students and the instructor. The atmosphere was conversational and informal, allowing students the space to work through sticky issues and raise honest questions without fear of judgment. Regular course activities allowed us to consider creative approaches to program evaluation and develop activities that we brought to class for other students. For example, Dr. McDonald incorporated program evaluation activities, such as Patton’s activities to break the ice with stakeholders, and Stufflebeam’s (2001) “Program Evaluation Self-Assessment Instrument,” into our classroom activities.

Hot Tip: Engage students by facilitating an open and interactive environment that fosters discussion and creativity.

  1. Course Content. The course covered both evaluation practice and theory, including the historical and philosophical underpinnings of evaluation theories. Because gaining expertise in the theory and practice of program evaluation in a 10-week course is not possible, Dr. McDonald provided us with a tremendous amount of resources for us to peruse on our own time and refer back to as necessary, as we begin working on evaluations more independently.

Hot Tip:  Provide students with templates, examples, and additional references about any activities or topics covered in order to allow them access to resources they will need once the course is over.

  1. Applications. One of the most valuable aspects of the course was its emphasis on the application of theory to the real world.  During the course, we developed and received extensive feedback on logic models, data collection and analysis matrices, and written and oral evaluation proposals. Additionally, we participated in a “career day” in which Dr. McDonald arranged a panel of evaluators who work in a variety of contexts to meet with our class to discuss careers in evaluation.

Hot Tip: Allow students to practice skills they will need in the real world and expose them to the diverse career opportunities in the world of program evaluation.

Our seminar only scratched the surface of program evaluation, but these features of the course provided us with a strong foundation in the field, and elicited excitement about our futures in evaluation.

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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