Sheila B Robinson

Reflections of an everyday educator/program evaluator/professional developer…LEARNER

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Presentation Principles: Crowdsourcing Audience Feedback

Presentation Principle: Capitalize on the collective wisdom in the room.

There are many reasons to maintain humility as a presenter. Certainly, it will endear you to the audience. Positioning yourself as a co-learner with your audience members, and not the only “expert” in the room opens up the possibility of having your own presentation serve as a learning experience upon which you can build to advance your practice.

Recently, I taught a pre-conference professional development course – Audience Engagement Strategies for Potent Presentations –  at Evaluation 2015, the annual conference of the American Evaluation Association.

Two interactive strategies during the course allowed participants to interact with each other, and also supplied me with important feedback.

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Hindsight is 20/20, even with surveys (Cross post with actionable data blog)

Yep, it’s another great co-post with the splendid Kim Firth Leonard, of the actionable data blog.

Almost everyone (probably everyone, actually) who has written a survey has discovered something they wish they had done differently after the survey had already launched, or closed, with data already in hand. This is one of the many ways in which surveys are just like any written work: the moment you’ve submitted it, you inevitably spot a typo, a missing word, or some other mistake, no matter how many editing rounds you undertook. Often it’s a small but important error: forgetting a bit of the instructions or an important but not obvious answer option. Sometimes it’s something you know you should have anticipated (e.g. jargon you could have easily avoided using), and sometimes it’s not (e.g. an interpretation issue that wasn’t caught in piloting – you DID pilot the survey, didn’t you?). Continue reading

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The CASM that Bridged a Chasm: When Cognitive Science Met Survey Methodology and Fell in Love! (cross post with actionable data blog)

When Kim Firth Leonard of the actionable data blog and I write together, we usually refer to each other with a superlative – fabulous, magnificent, wonderful, etc. (all totally accurate, of course) – but now, I’m even prouder to call her co-author! Yes, we are in the throes of writing a book on survey design!

After a very successful presentation to a packed room at Evaluation 2014 in Denver, CO (if you were there, thanks!) we met with an editor at Sage Publications to pitch our idea and now we’re busy fleshing out chapters and excited to share bits with our readers along the way.

The foundation of our collaborative work lies here: “how evaluators ask a question can dramatically influence the answers they receive” (Schwarz & Oyserman, 2001, p. 128).  Continue reading


Presentation Principles: Two simple strategies for audience engagement and all YOU have to do is ask questions!

Presentation Principle:

Keeping an audience engaged throughout the presentation is one key to success.

Do you want to read about two super easy strategies you can immediately incorporate into your presentation practice to keep audience members engaged? OK then, here we go!

I’ve written about audience engagement strategies many times (see here, here, and here)…but the two strategies I’ll share today are even easier than most and require no special equipment or materials. All you need to do is remember to use them.  Continue reading


What Is Different about K-12 Public Education Evaluations? Guest post by Rakesh Mohan and Lance McCleve

I’m pleased to publish this guest post by my evaluator colleagues in the Idaho State Legislature’s Office of Performance Evaluations. Working in a governmental context gives them a unique perspective on education evaluation, as their work encompasses numerous fields and they experience evaluation in many different contexts. I’ve also long been a fan of their evaluation reports which exemplify a modern approach to reporting and dissemination: the report formats are visually appealing, and therefore easy to navigate, read, and comprehend, and they use well-designed visualizations to communicate key data points.  Continue reading


Designing Effective Surveys Begins with the Questions BEFORE the Questions! (cross post with actionable data blog)

The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.      – Thomas Berger

Hey readers, Sheila here, writing once again with the marvelous Kim Firth Leonard, of the actionable data blog.

It’s survey design season, so get ready to flex those question design muscles! Well, to be truthful, it’s always survey design season in our data-saturated evidence-hungry society. As surveys have become ubiquitous, it is incumbent upon survey researchers to to cut through all the noise by developing the most effective instruments we can. And what’s the best way to get ready for any endeavor that requires flexing? A warm-up! Just as failure to warm up for physical activity can invite injury, diving into survey question design without a preparation process can introduce the possibility of gathering bad data. Remember the principle of GIGOContinue reading


Presentation Principles: A Secret Facilitation Move to Increase Audience Engagement

Presentation Principle:

Keeping an audience engaged throughout the presentation is one key to success.

I recently wrote about handling the Q&A portion of the presentation, but did not cover this important move.

Here’s the set-up:

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The Future of Dataviz: What’s in Store for 2015?

Happy New Year!

Forbes claimed in early 2014, “data visualization is the future.” Microsoft called 2014 “the year of infographics.”

And a few weeks ago, my friend, fellow evaluator, blogger, and dataviz aficionado Ann K. Emery  proposed that a bunch of bloggers write out our predictions about data visualization in 2015. According to Ann’s invitation, The only rules: Nobody gets to discuss their predictions/wishes ahead of time. It’ll be fun to see how our predictions overlap (or don’t), and then we can have live discussions via the comments section of our posts.

With that, I invite you to read not only this post, but also Ann’s Blog to see what she has to say, and to check out a few others as well.  Continue reading

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It’s All in How You Ask: The Nuances of Survey Question Design (cross post with actionable data blog)

If you do not ask the right questions, you do not get the right answers.

– Edward Hodnett, 20th century poet and writer

At Evaluation 2014, the American Evaluation Association’s annual conference, the incredible Kim Firth Leonard (find her over at actionable data blog) and I facilitated a 90-minute skill building workshop on survey question design. Kim and I have co-authored several posts on our shared passion for survey design. You can find these posts here, here, and here. We were thrilled to geek out with such a great group ready to humor us by taking our pop quiz, listening intently as we shared the science behind answering questions about behavior, nodding as we reviewed fundamental principles of survey design, and genuinely engaging with us in exploring better ways to approach surveys.  Continue reading

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Presentation Principles: The Audience Engagement Strategy Book

Presentation Principle:

Audience engagement through interactive strategies is key to a successful presentation.

discussion iconA presentation is a precious opportunity – Seth Godin

In summer 2014, I had the opportunity to write the Audience Engagement Strategy Book for the American Evaluation Association’s Potent Presentations (p2i) Initiative (available for free download on the p2i website). I’d written about audience engagement before (see here and here), but this time wanted to share specific interactive strategies that come with sets of directions and steps, and that can be customized to fit a presenter’s specific context.  Continue reading


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