I Only Know What I Know
April 13, 2011
Sue Ellen McCann
I was recently introduced to the concept of “evaluation” – in my case, a process in which I would receive feedback from an outside organization on my work process and product. At first, I thought, “Oh, great, another report card!” Memories of exchanges echoing the words “you should have done it this way” (I can’t stand the word “should”) brought up unproductive experiences filed in that awkward space under “character building”.
That was my “glass half empty” side worrying. In fact, that isn’t what happened at all. Instead, I have been introduced to a process of learning, a process of observation and dialog that accommodates conversation, reflection and growth. How did I get this so wrong? I somehow thought I was going to be punished for what I didn’t know. Aren’t we judged for what we get wrong?
The “science” of evaluation at its core is a process to assist in a greater understanding of how to find out “what we want to know” – truly about anything, how to collect information on what we what to know, how we might effect or alter different experiences based on that knowledge, and how to tell others about what was learned through this process. Then start again.
When you think about it for a bit, it’s not a very revolutionary concept, but it has changed the way I consider my work and life. It’s given me a focus I didn’t have before and opened me to new approaches in both my personal and professional life.
The key has been having an outside perspective, someone who can offer you a mix of wisdom, tools, observation, and guidance, and as the process continues some reflection on what’s working and what isn’t. I am fortunate in working on a project that can afford the services of a paid professional evaluator but value the simple gift of friendship that offer the same results.