Thursday, May 17, 2012

What is an evaluation?

An important part of our course is learning how to effectively evaluate our own work and progress. In a lecture we had on the topic, our attention was brought to just how many choices we make on a day-to-day basis, and how it is we reach those decisions. Generally, our daily choices are based "on value judgements or appraisals and reviews based on certain criteria", i.e. price, brand, ethics, design, taste, convenience. Reviews are also an integral part of our decision making; checking a film review before visiting the cinema, or a game review in a magazine before investing money in the game. But are these evaluations?

When evaluating something, whether it be programs, policies, people, products or organisations, we assess it's strengths and weaknesses to improve overall performance and effectiveness. It is constructive criticism, and should end with a statement of how you are going to improve in future, similar projects.

When evaluating ourselves, therefore, it is important to write from a somewhat objective standpoint. Examples of points to consider include:
- What was my progress as a result of my learning?
- What was the quality of my solutions?
- How did I perform during the module?
- How well did I work in a team?
- How professional was I?

It is important to not use statements such as "I think I made good progress", or "I was pleased with my work", without comparing it to something else. This is because statements like this give an impression of an "aren't I clever?" attitude and doesn't show an in-depth consideration of progress and areas of improvement.

Ways of doing this include giving examples, telling a story, compare the work you did to the work of others, talk about landmarks i.e. key points in progress, describe how you overcame challenges, use quotes from experts, and examine the overall impact of your work and contributions.

To summarise, an evaluation should involve asking and answering your own questions, analysing, reflecting and judging evidence, and then acting on the learning - making overall changes.

The reason it is important to understand evaluations is because it is the highest level of learning.

We were introduced to Bloom's Taxonomy, a classification of levels of learning. These levels were knowledge, understanding, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Using the example of a Nikon digital camera, we can better understand these levels.

Knowledge is simply that, knowing something. We might know the camera is a digital camera by Nikon, it's max shutter speed, it's price, etc.

Understanding is finding out in detail how the camera works, which we might do by reading the manual or using tutorials.

Application is trying out the camera and finding out which setting to use for specific subject matter.

Analysis is trying a range of cameras and comparing the results.

Synthesis is experimenting with the camera, using different exposures and effects, creating something innovative, and creating a sense of your own personal style and aesthetic. 

Finally, Evaluation is reflecting on the learning experience - what worked, what didn't, and how the experience has affected you. Compare your learning experience to previous experiences, and find out if you've discovered any new personal learning preferences. Examine what you will do differently next time, and what you would like to learn more about.

It is important to ensure the language used in an evaluation is detailed, and you should avoid words like nice, unique, special, good, amazing, rubbish, and anything else that is too colloquial.

It is also integral to ensure that the evaluation is as much about an action plan for the future as it is about the experience you have had.

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