Q and A Forum - Please ask the community anything

The Outreach Evaluation hub wants to share information on options and generate solutions towards better evaluation practice. We thought one way to open up a discussion thread is to share some links to our favourite evaluation resources, whether it be articles, guidance documents, case studies, helpful websites... or any other useful materials.

Do you have things you feel might be of value to the Uni Connect evaluation community of practice? Can’t wait to hear about them…


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Writing is the dispute of thoughts on a page - it is an arduous process that seeks to bring abstract ideas to the tangible world.

Writing is valuable. It doesn't just transfer insights, it creates them. And since “good words are worth a lot and cost little,” choosing the right words is worth the price you pay in time (and sanity).

In the Help Scout, we examine the quality of writing custom college essays through about this the same demanding lenses that we use to assess the quality of the code.

I certainly didn't understand this writing thing - not even close - but thanks to the pleasant feedback from readers, here are some common signs that your writing is going in the right direction:

1. Brevity. Soul. Wit.

Few things get in the way of writing more than spreading good ideas with many words.


2. Writing is not showing your vocabulary.

"When you write you must pretend that you, the writer, see something in the world that is interesting, that you are directing your reader's attention to that thing in the world, and that you are doing it through conversation," says Steven Pinker, a Harvard psychologist. Writing is not meant to prove ownership of a thesaurus - it is the selective transcription of thoughts.


3. In having your cake and eating it too.

The best writing is one that appeals at first sight but also rewards careful study. "A well thought out list" may seem like a paradox, but, like a movie, you can watch it again a dozen times, good hooks to write easily, but hide gifts for a keen mind.


4. Don't bury the lead.

Before the pen on the page or the fingers on the keyboard, you should start by knowing what you are trying to say. Each written piece must have the thesis, the value proposition, totally clear from the beginning. The journey to the end of your essay should be rewarding for other reasons, in addition to finding out what you are trying to do.


5. To write more 'damn good sentences', read them.

In the book How to Write a Sentence, New York Times columnist Stanley Fish laments that "many educators approach teaching the art of writing a memorable the sentence in the wrong way - based on rules rather than examples." Garbage inside, garbage outside; you will produce better phrases if you spend time reading it.

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6. 'In other words,' you should have used other words.

Insight is memorable when it can be adopted directly - don't fill it with "essentially", "basically" or "in other words". Use the right words the first time.


7. Don't tell people how to travel; show them your vacation photos.

The display of topics you know little about makes you insincere - your deception drains from each paragraph to an informed reader. Instead, jump out of your soapbox and don't preach, be Sherpa; share what you've learned honestly. People love to take a journey.


8. An idea is nothing without a reaction.

The reactions are oxygen for writing. Until you receive feedback on what you said, your analysis can reveal a lot. Be prepared for criticism and criticism; a great job depends on the willingness to be judged.


9. 'Just writing' is tiring advice, but still necessary.

If you are looking for a way to facilitate hard work, you will not find it in writing. You will struggle with the blank page until your butt falls off the chair, but until that day, stay seated and get the job done.


10. Tortuous endings can impair good writing; approach them quickly.

I'm going to let Paul Graham deal with this: "Learn to recognize the approach of an ending, and when one appears, grab it."


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Hi All, One of our Uni Connect partners is planning to produce some podcasts for students to download. The question has been asked about how we can capture data on this. Having done some reading on downloadable podcasts it seem like any data capture will be minimal. There is the added factor of not wanting the process to seem onerous for students (i.e. another registration form to fill out). I just wondered if anyone had experience of capturing podcast data, what you collected and how you went about it? Any help would be much appreciated. Many thanks, Scott (neaco - Network for East Anglia Collaborative Outreach).
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Study Higher are considering whether we might be able to incentivise students accessing online resources during Lockdown to provide us with monitoring data via a secure Google form or similar. This might be something like being entered into a prize draw to win a £20 Amazon voucher if they can provide us with some basic monitoring data (e.g. full name, DOB, postcode, school, email address).

We would value thoughts and insights from other practitioners around the following questions:

a) Is incentivising in this way an ethical approach to data collection, especially under current circumstances? (Please note that we would not make access to resources contingent on students providing us with their data); 
b) If we were to implement such an incentive, whether it might be necessary to incorporate some T&Cs, or a if there's anything else we should consider to ensure compliance and that students are reassured of our taking an ethical approach to collecting their data.
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Hi All


Good morning. I am just in the process of preparing for a mid-year review of our partnerships local and network level evaluation of learner activity/interactions. I am hoping to use half of our next operational group meeting (due to take place virtually next Tuesday) to review our evaluation activities so far. I am hoping this will be an opportunity for operational colleagues to share good practice and also to open up further discussion of evaluation methods. 

Is anyone else planning something similar at the moment within their partnerships? And if not for this academic year do you have examples you might be happy to share of doing this in the past? 

I appreciate at the moment this is quite (!) challenging given the circumstances. But I think it's still useful (certainly for us as partnership) to undertake this work. 

Best Wishes

Ellen Randall

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Have you developed, or working on, tools and resources designed to support local outreach practitioners to do more activity level evaluations as part of their delivery? If so, we would like to hear from you about your materials and experiences of working with practitioners in this way. We are proposing to pool resources to support each other. Please get in touch by emailing j.moore8@exeter.ac.uk.
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The Outreach Evaluation hub wants to share information on options and generate solutions towards better evaluation practice. We thought one way to open up a discussion thread is to share some links to our favourite evaluation resources, whether it be articles, guidance documents, case studies, helpful websites... or any other useful materials. 

To start us off…

1) http://journals.sfu.ca/jmde/index.php/jmde_1/article/view/496
Article on Refining Theories of Change which talks about the similarities and differences between theories of changes and other management tools (such as logic models) and sets out the characteristics of stronger theories of change models.

2)


The EEF’s You Tube presentation on using the Effect Size Calculator in Excel, provides useful instruction on how to calculate the effect size (a simple way of quantifying the difference between two groups that captures the size of any difference) using the Excel Effect Size Calculator – link to the excel effect size calculator file.

Do you have things you feel might be of value to the NCOP evaluation community of practice? Can’t wait to hear about them…

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