The Wisconsin state motto encapsulates one challenge that evaluators can experience. How do we keep moving the evaluation forward after running into barriers? Sometimes stakeholder feedback may not align with the outlined evaluation process. Sometimes you suggest an evaluation tool (e.g., theory of change) that stakeholders do not want or do not understand. And sometimes the focus of the evaluation is ambiguous.
Learning to “pivot” and find activities to move the project forward is a key skill for an evaluator. In my initial evaluation projects, I would get stuck and was unsure how to guide stakeholders forward. Since then, I’ve learned where to turn to help me get unstuck. Below are some resources and ideas for you too:
Ideas and Resources to Move an Evaluation Forward:
- Review books for ideas.
One good source is Suskie’s book on assessment. While it focuses on assessing student learning, it includes examples of many resources (matrices, questions for stakeholders, mapping exercises) that one can apply to your own project. Suskie, L. A. (2009). Assessing student learning: a common sense guide. 2nd ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
- Talk to evaluation mentors or other evaluators.
Other evaluators can help you brainstorm ideas to move a project forward. They might suggest another tool, a new process, or ways for you to communicate the importance of an activity or process. Beyond helping you when you get stuck, mentors and networks provide important support and learning opportunities so are great resources to cultivate.
- Review online resources.
There are many evaluation sites that can spark your creativity in finding a solution. Use sites such as Better Evaluation (betterevaluation.org) or the AEA 365 blog (aea365.org/blog/) to identify activities. And don’t be afraid to be creative with your solutions. Your idea doesn’t need to be a template or tool that has been done before. You can and should adapt activities or templates to your own evaluation context.
– Kate Westaby, MS, PhD Student at UW-Madison in the Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis program.