Monday, November 19, 2012

Evaluation is an opportunity for transformation!

'Provide a voice to the most marginalised groups in society.’  ‘As an evaluator you have a role to play in transforming perspectives.  Clearifying your values, and in my case using participative approaches in promoting equity and equal participation in change’,  is one of the most important lessons I gained from the e-learning course ‘Equity-Focused Evaluations’.      This distance learning course is conducted by MyMandE  an initiative of UNICEF, the Rockeveller Foundation, Claremont Graduate University and IOCE.    The main goal is to support evaluation expert’s to update their knowledge and skills in conducting evaluations and providing them with the latest developments in evaluations. For more information watch the video:  My MandE – E-learning on Development Evaluation.

What is an equity-focused evaluation?
An Equity-focused evaluation is a judgement made of the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impact and sustainability. It provides assessments of what works and what does not work to reduce inequity, and it highlights intended and unintended results for worst-off groups as well as the gaps between best-off, average and worst-off groups. It provides strategic lessons to guide decision-makers and to inform stakeholders.  Equity-focused evaluations provide evidence-based information that is credible, reliable and useful, enabling the timely incorporation of findings, recommendations and lessons into the decision-making process.  Read more about >>>> Defining Equity Focused Evaluations.

The design of the course and lesson learned
Starting from September 2012 I participate weekly in a distance learning class. Every week two experts present and share their expertise on a specific topic related to equity-focused evaluations.  Each lesson is composed of a 30-minute video lecture,  15 page reading of literature, completed with conducting a multiple-choice test.  Read more about >>>> the program.  After each lesson the participants share their feelings, views and questions as a Linked-in platform.
Sofar the lessons about values, program theories and logframes, system thinking, case study approach and developmental evaluations were most helpful for me.  Some of the lessons and eye-openers I gained;

  • Communicate your values at the start of your evaluation and integrate them in your evaluation plan and approach;
  • Ensure that the marginalised groups integrated in the programme get an equitable voice in the evaluation process;
  • Focus on understanding how change comes and do not just focus on what happened.  Change does not come by logical relationships, it is much more complex.  Focus your approach as an evaluator in understanding the local context and understand the intervention as embedded in its environment;
  • Ensure that your evaluation team has a broad cultural and gender based diversity which is representing the demands and perspectives in the evaluation;
  • Test your own assumptions continously during the evaluation process and get all the perspectives and assumptions from the stakeholders involved outside the box;
  • The case study approach is a very helpful tool in getting the relationships clear between policy makers, implementing organisations and beneficiaries  and how the context is influencing them. A case study about an educational program involving ministries, municipalities, school directors, teachers, students and their parents provided new insights for me on how lessons can be shared and gained amongst stakeholders;
  • The developmental evaluation approach is a continuous evaluation process which permanently deals with changes in the context. This approach allows the program to be flexible. It is effective in contexts where innovation, complexity, changing demands play an important role.
  • Evaluation is an opportunity for transformation!  Evaluation is not just an assessment, but it is a process involving the main stakeholders in guiding them in leading their own development process.

Moving forward
Some of these major lessons I will integrate in my next evaluation promoting ‘the participative approach’ as my most important value.  Evaluation is an opportunty for transformation!  The e-learning training about ‘Equity-Focused evaluations’ will continue up to 16th December 2012.  A new course about ‘National Evaluation Capacity Development for country led evaluations’ will start in January 2013.  Read more about >>> e-learning courses on Development Evaluation.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Digital storytelling by video

'Ask yourself a question and make yourself to be followed by a videocamera'.  This is what one of the participants did at the bookpresentation  'Omdat het Werkt! - 11 casestudies about learning with social media'.  This day, organised by the Losmakers on the 28th September 2012,  was aiming to exchange knowledge and experiences about successful application of social media in learning- and educational trajectories. This videoproduction was applied as an experiment to test the effects on the person who was followed and the responses it generated from the fellow participants at this seminar. It was an example of experimenting with 'Digital Storytelling'.

The videostory
The story of the video was focused at following one of the twenty-five participants during the workshops. Through a Linkedin group, that was started prior to the event, one enthousiastic participant was identified and selected.  The story board of the video was developed by the filmmaker and the participant with a key learning question as point of departure. Between the workshops during the breaks moments of filming were planned to ask reflective questions.  What insights did you gain? What new questions did arise? And as final question ; What are you going to do next monday?   See video:   'The new way of learning'  (in Dutch): 
The result
The process of videomaking stimulated the participant to work actively with the learning question. 'It stimulated me to stay close connected to the core part of the question,  expressing myself in short and powerful answers.  Through this approach I was stimulated to gain the maximum result out off the workshops!'    After the seminar the video was shared at the Linkedin group. A number of participants recognised a number of lessons, but also indicated they had gained new insights by watching the video.

Interactive video, digital story telling and participatory videomaking  enhance learning
This experiment was applied at a small scale basis. Two persons (the filmer and the participant) developed the story. However, with an active participation of a wider group of participants, the result could have been much bigger.  From research it has been demonstrated, that the application of interactive video in classroom situations enhances learning. However, if video is applied as a one-day information carrier it doesn't improve learning results. In 2005 Elsevier published an article, that interaction and active participation of the students is an essential prĂ©-condition for applying video as a successful tool for learning.  Read article >>> Instructional video in e-learning.

The phenomenon of 'Digital Story Telling' is gaining increasing popularity in primary- en secundary education in Great Brittain and the US. Young people in the classroom get opportunities to respond interactively at presentations, photos and videos and develop their own digital stories. Read article: Digital Storytelling A Powerful Technology Tool for the 21st Century Classroom.
Voice thread is a popular online tool that is applied in primary and secundary eduation where students respond interactively by text, audio- or video messages at a presentation or an exercise. This interactivity helps the students to process knowledge and to link it to concrete exercises.  These help the students to actively apply new information in another form.  This finally leads to better learning results.
Cartoons and drawings are another means to tell digital stories online. With Story bird and Glogster-    you can create your own cartoon characters to vizualize a story. An overview of online digital story telling tools can be found at >>>>> Sites for digital story telling.
Participatory videomaking (PV) engages people actively in telling their story. Research, developing the story (story boarding), the filming and editing are the phases of videomaking that appeal people's capacities on exchange, co-operation and communication. Practical experience has shown that PV fosters the contact of students, teachers and outsiders who are engaged in the story. So was I involved in a participatory videomaking workshop with youth, who made a film about eldery people in their village to ask them about their childhood experiences.  See >>> PV in Ulmu.

Ten ideas for applying video in training- or classroom environments
Dr. Alex Couros, expert in the area of educational videomaking,  shares at his site ten ideas about how you can engage students to tell their stories by video.  Read >>>>>> 10 ideas for classroom video projects.
 Four examples, which fascinated me the most and which are easily to be created:
1. A video interview by skype, where two people from  two different backgrounds meet each other by webcam. Through Tin - Tin you can obtain the software that enables the creation of a webcam interview.
2. A life story in one minute - Forrest Gump in One Minute
3. An audio story told by children  and filmed and executed by adults,  see Kid Snippets - Salesman
4. Social commentary and critique - children make a documentary about the quality and the meals in the schoolcantine.  See video from the  Neverseconds daily foodblog.

The most interesting part of these video's is the creativity, the diversity and the co-operation between the different groups and the discussions that are accelerated by these video's.  For me, video is a very powerful tool, that contributes to enhanced learning, interaction and understanding between people!