March 21, 2017
Evaluation... What can we learn?
Reflecting back, we've come a long ways, and as with any journey we still have a long ways to go. Here is a message I gave through this Tuesday Letter over 12 years ago. I do think we've made progress, but I also believe it deserves repeating and a reminder to us all of the importance of understanding what, if any, impact the educational programming we are doing is truly having on our target audience.
From February 8, 2005, in carrying out Extension educational programs, we stress the importance of planning. Planning, by definition, is to devise or project the realization or achievement of something. In our case, the "something" is our educational intended outcomes. Yet, all too often we fall short on our willingness to devote the time and energy to determine if the plan is actually achieving the intended outcomes. If you go back to the definition of planning, it is to say we fall short in our assessment of the realization or achievement.
In my simple way of thinking, we, as individuals within this organization, must be willing to closely scrutinize our effectiveness. We must be interested in asking the right questions of our "students" to know if the outcomes are being achieved through the execution of the plan, ie. the series of learning activities. We must be willing to ask peers to give honest assessment of our educational programs based upon the intended outcomes and an understanding of the overall educational plan being used to guide the programming.
After an educational event, are you asking the participants what they got from participating, what they might still need in making sound decisions around the key issues being addressed, whether the learning environment was appropriate, if they have other ideas of potentially better learning opportunities, and what they might suggest as a means of strengthening the program? Are you asking your colleagues to provide a critical assessment of the learning event you just held, how you might make it better, how well it fits into the bigger context of the goals/outcomes for your program plan, what additional components would be useful in strengthening the learner outcomes?
As an educator, and as an Extension service committed to improving the quality of life and economic well being of the people of Kansas, I believe we need to be asking the critical questions regarding our educational plans and the ways in which we deliver the educational programs to be sure we are on a path of continuous improvement in serving the interests and needs of the people who live in Kansas. If you aren't already doing so, the simplest way to start is to ask your colleagues and your constituents to give their honest assessment of your program activities and if those activities are the best approaches to reaching your planned goals and outcomes.