I have learned a lot about evaluation from helping Cindy and Karen coordinate national evaluation efforts. There are some things, though, that are better taught in workshop form. I want some hands-on training, and I hope to find those opportunities at the annual American Evaluation conference Evaluation 2017 this November in Washington, DC. Luckily for me, the theme for this year is “From Learning to Action,” so it seems that the AEA has training on its mind as well. The idea of going to a conference is still new to me – so far, I have only attended a local 1-day conference through the Washington Libraries Association, and only one day of the last annual MLA conference. If I attend, Evaluation 2017 would be the first time I must plan multiple days of conference going. What a task!
There are 4 2-day workshops, 20 1-day workshops, and 51 half-day workshops during the pre-conference. How do you choose out of 75 workshops? For me, it was easy. The first workshop listed is a 2-day Eval 101 course. As a newbie to evaluation, I think I would get the most out of that workshop.
I do not know if my schedule will permit me to take more workshops, but there were a few others that I thought would suit me. NEO advocates a participatory and collaborative approach to evaluation, such as data parties, so the workshop Going Deep on Participatory and Collaborative Approaches to Evaluation would be good for hands-on training in that area. I usually focus on the technical sides of survey building, but the workshop Crafting Quality Questions: The Art & Science of Survey Design could help me ask better questions. I am interested in learning about logic models, and there are at least two workshops specifically about them that I could attend. Finally, on Saturday there is a Designing Dashboards in Excel workshop that could teach me how to update some of our internal dashboards.
Another focus of AEA conferences are Topical Interest Groups, or TIGs. The 56 different TIGs in AEA are “the heart and soul” of the organization, allowing members to network by background and type of work. Evaluation is found in almost all work environments and organization types – it would be good to talk with evaluators who work in your same field at some point!
The list of TIGs is staggering, but there are a few that I think would be good to join as a member of the NEO. The Collaborative, Participatory & Empowerment TIG is a type of evaluation NEO advocates. The Health Evaluation TIG is an area where NEO helps perform evaluation. Personally, I have interest in attending the Data Visualization and Reporting TIG and the Distance Ed and Other Educational Tech TIG because of NEO’s love of data visualizations, and NNLM’s focus on webinars.
In the end, AEA sounds like a hands-on, skill building conference. It will give me opportunities to learn from renown evaluators, and meet evaluators from all over the world. I might even meet the whole NEO staff in person – something I have yet to do!
Have you ever attended AEA’s annual conference? Have any suggestions? Let me know in the comments.