As Stella spoke of , evaluators sometimes struggle with explaining what they do to casual acquaintances at a party or potential clients encountering the concept for the first time. As the Communications Editor and support staff to ACET’s evaluators, I personally think about how to succinctly explain the work of evaluation, and find myself describing it at length through hypothetical situations: “So imagine you operate a tutoring program. You want the organizations that fund your program to keep funding it so you can keep tutoring. To do that, you need to show that your program is making a real difference in the lives of the kids, in the school, in the community, and so forth. So evaluators come in and sit down with the kids. Do they enjoy tutoring sessions? Does the program make school easier? How about homework? What would they change if they could? And then evaluators go to the tutors themselves and ask if they see improvements in the kids. Do they get all of the resources that need to tutor effectively? What would they want changed? And then…”
As you can see, this explanation can get long-winded, but there are many skills that are involved with evaluation that may or may not get employed. We here at ACETmight develop surveys and administer them to a variety of different audiences. We often meet with people to ask them questions. We might provide training or make extra information available to people who will gather information. We might just get data and analyze it, looking for trends and patterns. We might need to write a paper explaining what a dataset is showing or suggesting, and recommend what people should do next. Or, we might need to present the information to stakeholders. At different times, someone listening to this explanation might chime in to say: “So, you’re trainers? You’re researchers? You crunch numbers?”
The only really good answer to those questions is, “Yes. We do all of those things, and more, too. We’re evaluators.”
So, how about you? How do you explain evaluation work to non-evaluators? We would love to hear from you in the comments.