New Year, New Motto

There are times when the purpose of evaluation seems to get lost in the shuffle in a rush to get a program off the ground or a product out the door. In those cases, evaluation can feel like a necessary evil rather than an important step of the overall process.

I wanted to start the year off with a motto that could help me remember the importance of what I do, so that I can help clients (and potential clients) see the inherent value of evaluation as well.  In my quest for that motto, I stumbled across this oldie but goodie: “That which is measured improves” – rumored to have been said by Karl Pearson a statistician. Sometimes referred to as “Pearson’s Law” I think this quote sums up one of the important benefits of evaluation – i.e., its potential for making something even better.


In the absence of measurement, we arguably don’t know if there has been improvement. As the old “G.I. Joe” saying goes, “knowing is half the battle,” but, I like the implied assertion in Pearson’s Law that the act of measurement may foster and help to facilitate improvement.  That’s what I seek to do as an evaluator: help make everything the best it can be!




Reflections on Evaluation 2017 Conference

Just wrapped up a great week in DC for Evaluation 2017.  I met up with many of my friends and colleagues from the visitor studies world; got to spend time with my fellow Rockman et al team member, Kristin Bass, and reconnect with former Rockman team member, Maryann Durland; met with some former and new clients for the first time face to face; gave a presentation on telepresent data collection and hosted a roundtable discussion on assessing the impacts of STEM media projects for youth; and even got to hang out with Michael Quinn Patton in the very last session that I attended…if there is such a thing as “evaluation rockstars,” Patton should definitely count among their ranks, and I’m certainly a big fan of his utilization-focused approach to evaluation. So, I’d say it was  a pretty good week!  IMG_7526

As always, I like to share my notes so that others can also have a chance to benefit from all the things I was able to hear and learn at this week’s conference. I also find conferences to be a great opportunity to hone my note taking skills.

Without further ado, here’s the link to my notes:

Long-term Impacts of Early Childhood STEM Instruction

One of the projects I’m currently working on is a formative evaluation for a multi-year grant with PBS Kids to develop STEM-oriented programming for young children. Its not really possible to see longer-term impacts of instructional programming (esp. with a formative evaluation initiative – focused on quickly gathering feedback to help drive immediate changes/improvements to a product), so its exciting when other researchers are unable to uncover links. On that note, I’m excited to share a link to the following article which highlights recent finding that connect early STEM learning to outcomes observed later in a child’s life.


IRB deregulation on the horizon!

At long last, we can see some new Human Subjects guidelines/regulations on the horizon! An article entitled “Long-Sought Research Deregulation Is Upon Us. Don’t Squander the Moment,” recently appearing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, provides more info on the upcoming changes:

In the meantime (i.e., til January 2018), if you are doing work with Human Subjects and/or have been asked to get an IRB review – this webinar may be of interest:

“Surviving the IRB Process” (part of a professional development partnership between VSA and ASTC)

Upcoming visitor studies training opportunities

I’m really excited to announce a couple professional development opportunities that I’ve been helping to organize on behalf of the Visitor Studies Association, in my capacity as chair of the professional development Association.

The first is a webinar on April 27th featuring presenter, Beverly Serrell–the woman who literally wrote the book on Tracking and Timing as a method for studying visitors in exhibits. This is part of a series of professional development opportunities that VSA is co-hosting with ASTC:
Webinar_Timing-Graphs.jpg    Serrellheadshot copy
Registration link:

The other event is the 2017 VSA conference in Columbus Ohio.  We’ve got a lot of great Pre-conference workshops planned so be sure to check out all of these great PD opportunities as well:

Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 10.57.46 AM.png

Election-themed babyshower

This week we celebrated the upcoming arrival of Alison’s baby with an election-themed baby shower. With a due-date near the US elections in November, this seemed like a fun way to forego traditional pastels for some good old red, white, and blue! Alison actually inspired this theme when she sent an election themed package to let us know that she was expecting. Congrats Alison – we can’t wait to meet baby Allen!

The Data Revolution

Screen Shot 2016-08-02 at 9.47.56 AM.png

This year’s theme for the Visitor Studies Conference–playing on the historic revolutions that took place in Boston, where this year’s conference was held–was “The Data Revolution.”  There were an impressive number of presentations and workshops that focused on data and a variety of approaches to data analysis.  As always, I’m happy to share out my conference notes, as well as link to my presentation (along with co-presenters Claire Quimby and Elee Wood) “How to Keep from Drowning in Data.”  Lastly, I hosted a dining discussion on the topic of “Cool New Tools, Tips, and Tricks for Evaluation.”

Below (an example from my notes): a scattergram that plots several data points from different exhibits based on Sweep Rate Index (SRI) and the Percentage of Diligent Visitors (%DV)