Sheila B Robinson

Reflections of an everyday educator/program evaluator/professional developer…LEARNER

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What is the “evalusphere” anyway?

I’m proud to say I’m the first to coin the term “evalusphere.” Of course, “blogosphere” has been around for more than a decade. “The blogosphere is made up of all blogs and their interconnections.”  The same can be said of the evalusphere. While it’s made up of all evaluators, evaluations, and their interconnectedness, a growing variety of concepts, disciplines and fields of inquiry are now part and parcel of the evalusphere.

In “The Future of Evaluation,” a panel at Evaluation 2012, Michael Scriven called evaluation “the alpha discipline.” In the same panel, Beverly Parsons spoke of “the growing understanding of complex systems thinking” in the evaluation community, and Susan Kistler opined that using cultural competence is the only way to do quality evaluation.  In the opening plenary, Rodney Hopson spoke about the emergence of evidence-based discourse, addressing methodological challenges, and understanding the principles of adaptive management. Numerous presenters held sessions on new technologies and data visualization.  Continue reading


Like an evaluator in a data store…

I got to thinking about what I love about evaluation and it occurred to me that at least one aspect of it is particularly appealing due to its remarkable resemblance to shopping. Yup, that’s what it is. What I love about evaluation is collecting data!

The same rush of excitement I would get during a day at the mall I now get checking SurveyMonkey for incoming responses. It’s that “thrill of the hunt”, the acquisition, the addition to the collection that ignites the passion. As I become less materialistic and more fiscally responsible (as my golden years approach), I find myself engaging more in the latter than the former.

It happens even prior to data collection. Have you been to the Mall of America? Like planning out my day – thinking about what am I shopping for, how much I really need vs. how much I want, and which stores I will visit – I love designing the surveys. Who do I need to reach? How many of them? What do I really need to know from them vs. what I want to know? How will I get the biggest “bang for my buck?”

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Who are you as an evaluator?

At Evaluation 2012, I attended “Advice for novice evaluators,” an engaging panel comprised of  the following evaluators whose experience ranges from 13-47 years: Arthur Hernandez, Jeanne Hubelbank, Michael Morris, Katye Perry, Robert Stake, and Sue Lin Yee. Each panelist was given the opportunity to offer wisdoms of practice, and all gave substantive advice that I look forward to sharing with my future evaluation students.

I wish I could properly credit the panelist who proffered this astute aphorism:

Developing a professional identify doesn’t always come from what you do, but how you think of yourself. 

It reminds me of one of my  favorite AEA365 posts: John LaVelle on Personal Statements About Evaluation – published March 25, 2010. Read the original post here and you’ll even see a comment from me!

©2006 Photo by SheilaBRobinson

Among other things, LaVelle tasks evaluators to Develop a personal statement of what evaluation means to you and how it can and should be practiced in dynamic, fluid, and political organizational and community environments. Given AEA12’s insightful conference theme, I would now consider asking evaluators to describe how evaluation can and should be practiced in complex ecologies comprised of relationships, responsibilities, and relevance.

I ask evaluation students to complete an evaluation personal statement as a required course assignment. I couldn’t possibly ask blog readers to do the same, but I will ask you this:  if you were to write such a statement, what key words or phrases would most certainly be included in yours?


Why blog?

As I thought about why I started this blog (and had trouble gathering my thoughts on the topic), I decided to learn a little about why other evaluators blog. So what did I do? I did what I love best – collected data and did a little analysis! I went to my favorite evaluation blog AEA365, and searched the phrase “why I blog.” Here’s my data:

  • 25 bloggers / 25 posts
  • posts dated from December 2011 – April 2012
  • 1800+ words

I did some qualitative coding and created categories. My findings? Those who blog do so primarily to share information and ideas with others, to connect, network and build relationships, and to learn. Other themes include expressing their identities and blogging so that others get to know them, for reflection on learning, to contribute to the field and finally, (most surprising to me!), to help them organize and archive their work!

Just for fun, I fed the data into Tagxedo and voila:

So…I think I will blog for many of the same reasons! Were you surprised by any of these categories?

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Hello and Welcome!

Welcome to my first post of my first blog! I suppose I should explain what I’m doing here, but believe it or not, this is one of the hardest things to do! Why am I here? Well, I love to read and I love to write, though the former comes much easier than the latter.

I’ve been enjoying other evaluators’ blogs and have a few ideas of my own to share as well. I enjoy professional conversation and the exchange of ideas, and my hope is that this blog will be one way to capitalize on the collective wisdoms of practice and experience of my evaluation colleagues by posing questions and encouraging dialogue. Plus, I’ve received encouragement from fellow evaluators, and I’ve never been one to shy away from peer pressure! So, perhaps this is why I blog. But, in the interest of learning more about why others blog, I did a little evaluating (what else?). Look for my next post on what I’ve learned about why others blog.

If you’re a blogger, please leave a comment and tell me why you blog. Oh, and thanks for visiting. Hope to see you again soon!