It’s always nice to have the work you are doing affirmed and appreciated. When it’s something you’ve been working on for nearly five years and it’s finally all coming to fruition, it’s kind of exhilarating. That’s how I felt after this year’s American Evaluation Association annual conference in Washington D.C. We had two sessions during the Nov 8th to 11th conference about our work on the Graduate Certificate in Evaluation Studies. We have long believed that the certificate is on the leading edge of a change in how working professionals engage in ongoing education, the conversation around our presentations confirmed that belief.
A multi-paper session entitled Core Competencies for Evaluators: Aligning Evaluator Training to the Proposed AEA Competencies laid the groundwork for our approach and rationale for the development of the current competency-based, modularized certificate. The three-pronged presentation focused first on the module system employed within the certificate that allows students to engage with the content in small chunks. A 4-week commitment to a .2 credit module that takes 9-12 hours to complete is a lot less daunting than a 3-credit course for a busy, working professional. These just-in-time offerings provide important professional development, but also lead to college credit and the eventual full-certificate if desired. The second presentation discussed our decision to align the certificate with the proposed competencies for evaluations (Stevahn, King, Ghere, & Minnema, 2005). We reflected on the fortuitousness of our decision to embark on a curriculum overall at the same time that the AEA Board of Directors issued a charge to develop an official set of competencies for the organization to adopt. Finally, we discussed how the competency-based approach has served working professionals in two distinct fields. I was so excited to have an engaged group of evaluators attend the session. Many of the questions related to the module-based approach, probably because it is so unique within higher education.
A roundtable discussion entitled Should Graduate Curriculum be Aligned to the Proposed AEA Evaluator Competencies? attracted evaluators from diverse fields, several different countries, and some of the leading educators in evaluation. What followed was a rich discussion about the benefits and challenges of competency-based education. One of our key take-aways was that we need to develop a better way to measure progress to the evaluator competencies. What does it mean to be a Novice? Proficient? An expert? What are the KSA’s associated with the competencies at each of these levels? We are anxious and excited to start working on these questions and continue to lead the field in competency-based education for evaluators.