Avoiding Getting Tripped Up

Dealing With The Elephants…

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This week we (my student buddy and I) started putting together an evaluation plan for our evaluation project. The thing about evaluations is that if you don’t rein them in right from the start, there is always a risk that they can become ‘bigger than ben hur’.  I’ve been putting some thought into making sure this doesn’t happen to us.  Firstly we have to be realistic about whether the scope of the project is do-able within the time frame allocated.  Nothing worse than trying to cover all the bases and ending up not covering any very well because you are out of time.  In my experience evaluation time lines don’t always behave and can easily blow out.  Someone told me once that a good rule of thumb is to allocate a time frame for a task, then double it!

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Scope creep is another culprit, usually sneaking up on you when you not looking.  It happens easily, say a really interesting part of the evaluation takes your attention, or an unexpected outcome that you want to follow-up further…and then there you go…..scope creep. We need to remember to stay on the straight and narrow and deflect any temptation to follow other paths (for now).

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Flabby objectives can make you feel lost and a bit overwhelmed.  It is like a dress, if you’re not being precise when cutting your pattern, the dress will be skew whiff by the time you finish.  For us that means making sure our aim and objectives are bang on right from the start, so we are clear about what we are trying to evaluate and why.

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2 Responses

  1. Great analogies Sandra. One thing you can do in this particular evaluation project is to indicate in your plan more strategies for collecting than you may actually end up doing – if this helps you to demonstrate the principles of triangulation and bracketing – which I describe in the Planning/Evaluation methods section on WikiEducator.

    Also, as you say, getting the aim and objectives right and also formulating the evaluation questions before choosing the methods for collecting data is important. The tendency is for people to say “ok lets do a survey” and then they happily prepare a list of survey questions but wonder why they didn’t get the responses they needed to make the necessary decisions.

    It is challenging to think of the overall plan for the evaluation first, and it takes time but it is well worth it in the long term. It ends up saving time and angst. I guess doing an evaluation badly is akin to entering the Amazon jungle in a pair of jandals and little else. You will get bitten by something, even if you are good at skipping and skirting around things! 🙂

    Going back to your dressmaking analogy – can’t the wonky dress still be fixed even if the first cutting out is off kilter? But would you want to?

  2. Thanks for your comment Bronwyn. The dress can be fixed but often at great expense whether that be in terms of money, resources or morale. Sometimes if the dress is really wonky, it may be worth just starting another, but that means discarding peoples personal investment and financial investment in the design. That is where evaluation as Tom Reeves pointed out, is a somewhat political process.

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