Faculty of Education

Faculty of Education
Faculty of Education

M.Ed. Students Host Program Evaluation Open House for Community Members

by Chi Yan Lam (Ph.D. '15)

Faculty of Education graduate students host program evaluation open house for leaders of community organizations following pro-bono consultation work that helps leaders evaluate impact on program users.

Leaders and program managers of social and educational organizations in the Kingston community attended an open house hosted by Faculty of Education graduate students in April, 2014. This open house showcased the pro-bono consultation work graduate students enrolled in the graduate course, EDUC828 Program Evaluation, has perform as part of their graduate training. For the past 12 weeks, graduate students worked intensively in collaboration with their clients to learn how program evaluation might answers important questions clients had about their programs. This event brought together members from the community, faculty, and doctoral students, all of whom were interested in supporting the learning of the graduate students.

This culminating activity was part of an innovative approach to learning in program evaluation started by Dr. Lyn Shulha, Professor and a Founding Member of Assessment and Evaluation Group. While a practical, service component had always been a part of the course, this year learning about evaluation was conducted totally through a simulation. Graduate students arrived at their first class to be welcomed as interns in the firm EvaluationWorks. The course instructor, Dr. Lyn Shulha, introduced herself as the Director of the firm, and Chi Yan Lam, a doctoral student in program evaluation and a graduate of the course, as the firm’s Development Officer.

The “interns” were required to recruit a client, someone in a position to make program decisions based on evaluation information and findings. Classes were structured to reflect the work done in a real evaluation lab. Over 12 weeks, interns shared their experiences in working directly with clients, discussed the complexity of their program contexts and worked collaboratively on their evaluation designs. The firm’s 2 executives used the lab to help interns connect their decision making and ‘next steps’ to the theoretical foundations of evaluation. Theories of evaluation were mapped on to the realities of each program context to create evaluation designs that would be practical, feasible and useful for their clients.

“It was important to take the learning about evaluation outside of the classroom and situate it in the service of educational and social programs. Typically these programs are trying to make a positive contribution to the learning and lives of others and don’t have the resources to work with an evaluator”, explained Shulha. “Program evaluation, as it is practiced today, is truly multifaceted. In the early days, an evaluator would be called or sent into a program context, remain distanced from the program and its personnel, generate a snapshot of the program’s processes or outcomes, and render a judgment about the program’s merit, worth, or significance. This notion of evaluation as a process that is done to a program and its people with the potential for high stakes consequences is still pervasive.”

EvaluationWorks provides quite a different experience. It challenges interns to use newer evaluation frameworks while working closely with their program leaders to attend to the program’s real information needs. “As novice evaluators, I don’t expect interns to carry out the evaluation but to create an evaluation design that is practical, feasible and potentially useful for their clients. It is exciting to see how this process helps both the interns and program leaders see the value in evaluative thinking and its potential to make a significant contribution to program discussions and decision making.”

Students and their professor, some holding up signs with arrows that read 'EvaluationWorks'.

For more pictures of the event, please visit our Program Evaluation Open House photo album on Facebook.