Hi, my name is Phillip Stoeklen, I’m a project manager at the ARC and also a graduate of the MS in Applied Psychology (MSAP) program here at UW-Stout. As such, I have taken a special interest in looking at the ways in which we train new evaluators. Along with former ARC research assistant Devin Wisner and current assistant Nena McCalla, I recently presented a poster on our approach to mentoring new evaluators at the American Evaluation Association conference in Washington DC.
UW-Stout is Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University, where all of our degrees combine applied learning with a career focus. The ARC has benefited from that designation by fostering a symbiotic relationship with the MSAP. The program provides a steady stream of evaluators-in-training, and the ARC provides an environment where those students can hone their skill set on real-world evaluations. We value the unique skills and interests these graduate assistants bring to the table, and we feel that experiential learning is a vital component of any education.We believe that our graduate assistant program is successful because of the way we train and mentor students, and our project managers are but one source of information for students. In truth, much of the hands-on guidance is provided by our second-year student employees. Because of the cyclical nature of the student jobs program (i.e., we hire at least one new student per year, and we only have students for two years before they graduate), we found it necessary to create a program where both the project managers and the students were involved in the mentoring process.
So, what does this look like? As new students are hired into the ARC, they are given one-on-one training with our experienced project managers and second year graduate assistants. While the project managers provide more advanced training in evaluation methodology, the experienced graduate assistants provide the foundational training necessary for the students to be effective team members that can assist with research tool development, data analysis, and reporting tasks. As these new student trainees transition through their first year in the office, they are given more latitude in the tasks they are assigned, and they continue to develop their skills so that they can in-turn become the trainer in their second year, continuing the cycle. We believe that this model enhances the skill set of graduates, as they are able to demonstrate both their ability to conduct an independent evaluation, and their ability to explain complex evaluation topics to others. Knowing that students leave our office ready for success in the workplace is rewarding, but it is not just the students who benefit from this experience. This model also allows our project managers to complete evaluations knowing that they have a skilled support team.
You can take a look at our poster presentation on mentoring over on the AEA website.