No shoes? No shirt? No problem!

By Karen Ballard, Professor, Program Evaluation, University of Arkansas & NAEPSDP President-Elect

WHAT?  Be a part of the FREE virtual Program Evaluation Summer School July 21st – 24th, 2015.flip flops

No travel funds?  Lots of questions? We have you covered.

The National Association of Extension Program and Staff Development Professionals (NAEPSDP) and the PSD/Southern Region Program Leadership Network is co-sponsoring this four-day webinar series.  The free live interactive sessions will consider some of Extensions’ big issues . . .

Want to know how to produce webinars with wow?

Want to consider what the future may hold for Extension?

Want to know where to even start with program evaluation?

Want to know how to understand what really matters with social media?

Pull up a chair . . . in your office or on the beach . . . Register and join us next week.

You can register for one or all of the educational sessions, Tuesday-Friday, July 21st – July 24th

For more information related to topics and speakers, see the detailed program descriptions and registration links below,  or visit to register.


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Program Schedule


Tuesday, July 21st

Session Title:  Oh, What a Tangled Web…inar We Weave!

Presenters: Mary Poling and Dr. Julie Robinson

Session Description:

This session will look at the intricacies and continuous development of best practices for webinars and blended courses based on user feedback, instructor experiences, and evaluation results.

Participants will learn:

  • best practices for hosting a webinar.
  • best practices for conducting a webinar.
  • best practices for delivering a blended course.

Registration Link:


Wednesday, July 22nd

Session Title: The Art and Science of Environmental Scanning: Staying Real During Rapid Change

Presenters: Dr. Nancy Franz and Dr. Karen Ballard

Session Description:

This session examines trends and disruptive technologies that currently exist and/or are on the horizon for Extension. To plan responsively in this environment, Extension workers must anticipate these new developments. This session will engage participants in exploring strategies and methods Extension may need to adopt to insure relevance and support from stakeholders. Participants will be invited to participate in the discussion to stimulate actions supporting the future of Extension.

Registration Link:


Thursday, July 23rd

Session Title:  When Is a Program Ready for Replication and Rigorous Evaluation?

Presenters: Dr. Donna J. Peterson and Dr. Laura H. Downey

Session Description:

This session will explain the Systematic Screening and Assessment Method (SSA; Leviton, Khan, & Dawkins, 2010) and how it can be applied to Extension programs.  SSA includes environmental scanning methodology as well as evaluability assessment.  Participants will:

  • Learn the step-by-step process of conducting an environmental scan and evaluability assessment
  • Understand criteria used in an evaluability assessment
  • Be asked to apply the evaluability assessment method to a program of their own

Registration Link:


Friday, July 24th

Session Title:  Evaluation of Social Media Platforms for Extension Outreach and Education

Presenter: Amy Cole

Session Description:

This session will address identifying “if” and/or “what” social media tools may assist with effective Extension outreach and education of target audiences.  Participants will learn what research reflects regarding audience demographics for key social media sites and the implications for Extension educators.  Strategies and successful current practices from multiple organizations will be shared to assist participants in identification of effective social media methods that can be replicated.

Registration Link:

AEA2014: “Right-sized” Evaluation

Ben Silliman, Extension Specialist and Professor of Youth, Family, and Community Sciences at North Carolina State University

The thought that recurred for me throughout AEA14 in Denver was the importance of “right-sizing” evaluation. Not everybody needs to be an expert and not every program requires publishable evidence. This theme was apparent from the first morning when Melissa Cater and I hosted a roundtable on evaluating youth program quality. Leaders of many different youth organizations shared stories on how quality is defined, implemented, measured, and valued in a variety of contexts.

Two prominent themes were staff training and stakeholder support. Front-line staff who understand and practice developmentally-appropriate attitudes and skills at point-of-service promote a climate for positive youth development. Evaluation that empowers staff to understand and succeed with youth energizes and informs their work. Mastering a checklist or survey process without grasping its connection to people and programs is just “going through the motions.”

Stakeholders, especially funders, must understand that long-term investments in quality provide the best prospects for reaching performance benchmarks such as school success. Thus the first “right-sizing” is not related to evaluation expertise or generating data for outcomes, but rightly understanding and connecting to participants’ needs. NASCAR owners, who spend millions on high-performance drivers and equipment, understand that a race cannot be won without meticulous attention to “little things” from the driver’s water bottle to the vehicle’s tire wear.

No matter what the program, staff, or stakeholders, “right-sizing” evaluation is about thinking and communicating. Many of this year’s presentations underlined the importance of evaluative thinking, including the disciplines of researching best practice, modeling paths toward outcomes, and reflecting on teachable moments with diverse stakeholders. Equally important is regular communication among program partners, interpretation of contexts, practices, and findings to diverse stakeholders, and growing through communities of practice with peers. To support Youth Program Quality evaluation, I am launching a resource web site here. The site also includes research and tools on Growth and Development and on Evaluation Capacity Building, including links to E-Basics Online Evaluation Training and Discussion forums on Evaluation and Youth Program Quality.

Conferences such as AEA are great for encouragement and insight, but once-a-year is “too low a dosage” to promote personal and professional growth. On my return flight I read Atul Gawande’s “Better” (2007, Picador), a pop book of stories on how evaluative thinking is improving health and medical care.  From the first chapter he underlines the importance of diligence in attending to small actions and thinking about large systems. The closing chapter describes how groups of under-resourced teams in Indian medical clinics finished their 12+ hour days by debriefing “lessons learned,” building resilience in themselves and their patients. He noted how well-resourced Western hospital staff often feel they have no time to reflect and learn together like those village teams.

As important as evaluation may be for accountability or funding, without understanding of people needs and program practices, checklists and reports quickly become “the tail that wags the dog,” rather than the best way to tell that the dog is healthy, happy, and not ready to bite.


Upcoming Series: Reflections on the 2014 American Evaluation Association Conference

Hello! I am Tom Archibald, Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist with the Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education at Virginia Tech; I have the distinct honor of serving as the new coordinator for this blog.

My goal is to continue providing excellent, relevant evaluation information and insights to you via this blog, just as it has done in the past. Please post comments to suggest topics that you would like to see covered here. There are expert evaluators, from Extension and from elsewhere in the broader field of evaluation, who would love to share their thoughts on whatever evaluation topic you find most relevant to you.

To begin, I will be bring you a series of reflections from Extension evaluators who recently returned from the annual conference of the American Evaluation Association (AEA). The AEA conference is a wonderful opportunity to learn about and reflect on evaluation. My hope is that, by reading these contributors thoughts on and lessons learned from the AEA conference, the benefits of this excellent learning opportunity can be shared more widely.

In this series, there will be new posts every two or three days, providing you something of a virtual visit to the EAE conference. You will hear from:

  • Teresa McCoy (Assistant Director of Evaluation and Assessment, University of Maryland Extension) on a session with Michael Quinn Patton on evaluation ideas that should be retired
  • Brigitte Scott (Evaluation and Research Specialist for the Military Families Learning Network) on being a new evaluator and a new participant in AEA, and on the notion of being an “internal” or “external” evaluator
  • Pennie Crinion (Director of Program Planning and Evaluation, University of Illinois Extension) on the benefits of joining AEA, and on this year’s conference theme, “Visionary Evaluation for a Sustainable, Equitable Future”
  • Ben Silliman (Extension Specialist and Professor of Youth, Family, and Community Sciences at North Carolina State University) on “right-sized” evaluation

I hope you enjoy and learn from these perspectives on the annual evaluation conference! Remember, please post comments to let us know what topics you’d like to see covered here in the future.