I am Elaine Craft, Director of the SC ATE Center of Excellence since 1995 and President/CEO of SCATE Inc. since 2005. My dual roles mean that I am both a grantee and an evaluator. I’ve seen the ups, the downs, the good, and the bad on both sides of evaluation.
Managing your evaluator begins even before you contract for this service, as the contract sets parameters for the work ahead. It is your responsibility to see that your evaluator and the evaluation are serving your project well. Keep in mind that you will need to include much of the information the evaluator will be generating in the “Results of Prior Support” section of your next NSF ATE proposal!
It is helpful if your evaluator not only knows the essentials of project evaluation, but also understands the NSF ATE program and the two-year college environment. If you have an evaluator who hasn’t “walked a mile in your community college moccasins,” you will need to devote time to helping him or her understand your environment and the students you serve. There may also be terminology that is specific to community colleges, your institution, or your discipline that needs to be explained.
Everyone is busy, so scheduling should be a top priority. Share a copy of your institution’s calendar and discuss good times and bad times for certain activities. For example, the timing of student surveys is particularly sensitive to the academic calendar. Also, your evaluator may want to attend special project events such as advisory board meetings, professional development events, or summer camps. These dates should be scheduled with your evaluator as early as possible, as the evaluator is likely to have other clients and commitments that must be taken into consideration.
Make sure that you have a clear understanding with your evaluator about when reports are due. You should ask to receive your annual evaluation report before your annual report to the NSF is due. You will want to have time to review the report and work with your evaluator to correct any errors of fact before it is finalized and presented to the NSF or others.
Don’t settle for fewer evaluation services than you have contracted for, but also avoid adding things that were not in the original contract. The evaluator may be amenable to some modifications in the scope of work, but keeping your project and evaluation aligned with the original plan will help avoid mission creep for both the project and the evaluator.
Last, speak up! Your evaluator can’t adjust to better meet your expectations if you don’t articulate areas that are especially great and/or areas of concern. If both grantee and evaluator are on the same page and communicate often around the topics above, evaluation becomes a win-win for both. If your evaluator is not proactive in contacting you, you need to be proactive to keep communications flowing.
Tip: “Good advice is not often served in our favorite flavor.” Tim Fargo
An evaluator’s role is to see you better than you can see yourself. Let your evaluator know that you appreciate both accolades and guidance for improvement.