Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Program Evaluation

Last Thursday and Friday I conducted the first two session of the Essential Skill Series, a series of workshops conducted under the auspices of the Canadian Evaluation Society, Saskatchewan Branch. there are 4 sessions in this series and I do the first two - the introductory sessions.

This is always a challenge as some of the people that come to these sessions have had relatively extensive experience with program evaluation. The other challenge is that some of the people that attend have very specific needs as a result of their employment. Over the years the demands have changed. For a time the vast majority of people attending came out of Health regions with their own unique needs and challenges.

This last set of sessions had quite a number of provincial civil servants attending. A new government has new priorities and the Saskatchewan Party seems to have a focus on accountability and efficiency. There were many questions regarding these issues during these sessions.

I always get a kick out of doing sessions like these. If someone would have asked me 30 years ago whether I could ever see myself as something of an expert of any kind of evaluation I would have laughed.

Evaluation implies authority, accountability, 'caring,' efficiency, etc. Given my personality and view of hierarchies and accountability (then and to a certain extent now) I would never have seen myself in this position.

But circumstances, opportunity and serendipity all played a part.

One of my mentors was Dr. J. Orrison Burgess and he had an interest in Program Evaluation. And therefore, in his opinion, so did I!

At first I went along with him because he asked me to pay attention. Then I went along with him because he had a few consulting contracts and wanted to pay me. But ultimately I went along with him because I actually did become interested in the subject.

Interested, though, in quite a unique way. I saw the area as a challenge to teach. It is technical, could be considered dry and it is sometimes difficult to understand and even more difficult to turn into authentic behaviour.

And so I teach these Essential Skills workshops most years and occasionally teach the graduate course in Program Evaluation (EC&I 809).

I have even written an article for the Business Education Forum regarding the use of school based Program Evaluation and Business Education

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