EPSY474 week 5 reflection

This week’s reading assignment and activity did very little toward changing my mind about the usefulness of Appreciative Inquiry.  The comparison between evaluator competencies and AI was most intriguing in that I discovered that there was a lot of overlap between the two.  Which leads me to wonder: if these competencies are generally agreed upon as a list of necessary requirements for a successful evaluation, and Appreciative Inquiry shares many of these qualities, doesn’t it naturally follow that AI results in a successful evaluation?  I think it may be an overgeneralization to make the blanket statement that AI is the end-all solution for conducting a competent and successful evaluation, but I would also contend that it’s hard to ignore just how many of those competencies AI does incorporate in some way.

One other item of note about AI is that it has caused me to re-examine much of how things are done at my work–from the simplest interactions all the way to department-wide policies.  It’s far too early–and I have far too little clout–to apply AI methods in any practical or effective way as of yet.  But I think that the very fact that it has got me thinking at all, and that it has caused me to try to approach problems at work from a more positive perspective, is definitely progress.

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EPSY474 week 4 reflection

To me, the most interesting concept that came out of this week’s lessons was writing the annotated bibliography.  Before this week, the only experience I had creating bibliographies was in the more traditional sense of just citing sources.  But the idea that a bibliography can include more information other than just the author, title, copyright is intriguing to me.  How much more useful a bibliography is when the researcher compiling the resources can offer opinions about the works they’ve cited, and how they have interpreted those works–and how they fit it in to their research.  Not only does it give the reader much more insight into the researcher’s work and perceptions, but it also gives the reader a guide to additional reading–beyond the standard basic bibliography.  It’s almost the equivalent of amazon.com’s “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…”–except in a much more academic sense, of course.  Readers can make better-informed choices about any additional reading or research they decide to do.

EPSY474 week 3 reflection

This week’s reading was about Appreciative Inquiry–something I’ve never heard of before, yet I have…

Being new to the idea of formal evaluation methods, I never really considered the overall philosophy or approach to an evaluation.  I assumed that since there were such specific guidelines to the methodology of evaluations, I equated the procedure to the systematic process of checking items off of a checklist.

But after reading Reframing Evaluations Through Appreciative Inquiry, I realized that there are so many other dimensions to performaing an evaluation–and this concept, especially, seemed particularly useful.  And while the idea of approaching an evaluation with a positive frame of mind and emphasising past successes and idealized hopes for the future may seem obvious, it clearly is not–as the authors contend.

As the authors describe, too often evaluations are approached from the perspective of identifying problems to be solved–which has its own merits, but as the authors point out, emphasizing the problems automatically puts a more negative spin on the evaluation itself.  The idea behind Appreciative Inquiry is to approach the evaluation with a positive slant, by identifying past successes and creating a wishlist for the future.  And through this technique, problems or potential improvements are also identified–as are the solutions.

And that’s what I mean by, I’ve heard this idea before.  The idea of emphasizing the positive instead of the negative is not a new idea–it’s the cornerstone of self-improvement and self-help.  But as applied to an evaluation, I think the idea is groundbreaking.

As a personal preference, I liked using the four “I”s to desribe the phases–as opposed to the four “D”s.  I thought that Inquire, Imagine, Innovate, and Implement sounded more practical than Discovery, Dream, Design, and Destiny.  I think the four “D”s sound a little more fanciful–which might reduce the credibility of the concept to the more business-minded.

It may sound trite, but after reading this week’s chapters, I found myself feeling motivated to try to approach problem-solving in general in a more positive way.

EPSY 474 week 2 reflection

What I found most interesting about this week’s readings and assignments was the opportunity to apply the Program Evaluation Standards in the case study assignment.  First, we were asked to read the entire text, which was difficult at times, I must admit, because it read almost like a dictionary or a cookbook or another reference source–which makes sense, because that’s precisely what it is.  But what I found to be most useful about the Standards was the checklist toward the beginning.  After reading the admittedly relatively simplistic case study for this week’s assignment, I was able to consult the checklist and evaluate the case study based on each of the parameters listed.  Many of them didn’t apply because the case study was described very simply in broad strokes, but it was easy to find standards that did apply because of the checklist format.  Based on this first experience using this particular standards guide, I can imagine how much more useful it is when performing an evaluation–not just at the beginning during the planning stages, but throughout every stage, including a metaevaluation.

I also found the readings about human subject guidelines to be most encouraging and helpful.  I think this set of rules is an absolute necessity to not only provide researchers and evaluators with valuable information, but to help protect their reputations and the integrity of their research that might otherwise be compromised through a simple oversight.  And of course, these guidelines also serve to protect against intentional abuses.