As my one-year anniversary with ACET rapidly approaches, I have been reflecting on what I have learned through my work. The three most important things I have learned through my responsibilities as an Evaluation Specialist involved the importance of communicating through writing, being open to new challenges, and utilizing both quantitative and qualitative data.
- The importance of communicating through writing. One of my largest surprises here at ACET was the amount of time dedicated to communicating through writing. Whether it is a Request For Proposal (RFP) application, a client report, or email communication, ACET staff (including myself!) spend a great deal of time writing. I learned that that in order to write successfully, a great deal of time, hard-work, and editing is required. That hard work often results in ACET’s reports being succinct, clear, and thorough.
- Being open to new challenges. Evaluation is often not a repetitive field where staff perform the same task everyday. It takes a great deal of time for evaluators to learn a new program and tailor an evaluation that fits client’s needs. Evaluation processes often take a great deal of critical thinking and this may challenge staff. I’ve learned that to be successful in the field, I need to embrace these challenges to produce quality evaluations.
- Utilizing both quantitative and qualitative data. Many of ACET’s evaluations utilize both quantitative (e.g., numerical survey items) and qualitative (e.g., open-ended survey items or interviews) data to measure outcomes. Using both types of data helps triangulate evaluation findings. I learned that when close-ended survey findings are intertwined with open-ended responses, a clearer picture of program effectiveness occurs. Using both types of data also helps to further explain the findings. For example, if 80% of group A “Strongly agreed” to question 1, their open-ended responses to question 2 may explain why they “Strongly agreed” to question 1.
If you learned any lessons while working at your organization, please share!