Sheila B Robinson

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


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Presentation Principles: Right-sizing the Room to Maximize Audience Engagement

Presentation Principle:

The right setting can impact how your audience experiences a presentation.

It’s the Goldilocks conundrum: You’re scheduled for a conference presentation (i.e. a non-ticketed event were people do not pre-register) and you get to the room, only to discover that it is either too small or too big for your anticipated audience size… definitely not just rightContinue reading

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Presentation Principles: Foundations of Effective Presentations

There are multiple pathways to great presentations.

Some presenters are fortunate enough to be naturally possessed of  stage presence, charisma, or a je ne sais quois that keeps their audience hanging on their every word. After all, Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t use PowerPoint slides.* Steve Jobs never asked his audience to turn and talk to an elbow partner. The rest of us, though, are just not there. We’re presenting to the board, our colleagues, university students, fellow conference-goers, or some other audience who may or may not know us or be familiar with our work. “Star quality” is not something we can rely on for a successful presentation.  Continue reading


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Presentation Principles: A Q&A on the Q&A

You’re ready for the big day. You have your best content all set to go, well-designed visuals, and a plan for successful delivery including how to engage your audience. You’ve practiced in the mirror, on your family, and on your pets, and they have all given you the go-ahead for your presentation. The night before, however, you wake up at 3:17am in a cold sweat thinking, “How will I handle the Q&A?”  Continue reading


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Data Visualization: Sail Forth – Steer for the Deep Waters Only (Part II)

Either you decide to stay in the shallow end of the pool, or you go out into the ocean.

-Christopher Reeve

In an ongoing quest to improve my data visualization skills, I recently ventured out from the security of the shallow end and took a stab at the next level of sophistication with some basic charts. In Part I of this series I describe the process I used to create my first back-to-back bar chart. Once again, I learned most of the skills I applied for these from Stephanie Evergreen and Ann K Emery, both wonderful dataviz artists and great teachers.  Continue reading


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Data Visualization: Sail Forth – Steer for the Deep Waters Only (Part I)

Sail Forth- Steer for the deep waters only. Reckless O soul, exploring. I with thee and thou with me. For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared go. And we will risk the ship, ourselves, and all.

-Walt Whitman

I consider myself a novice, for now, staying safe in the shallow waters of data visualization. I’ve learned to create clean and modern-looking bar, column, and {gulp!} the occasional pie charts. I follow basic safety rules, dispensing with the unnecessary – gridlines, tick marks, superfluous axis labels and legends. I avoid default colors, and proudly leave 3D charts to the real amateurs. To venture beyond that, into the deep current of dashboards and interactivity, I would need a life jacket and tow rope. Recently, though, I waded a bit deeper, and experimented with two variations – back-to-back bar charts and small multiples. In this post, I share how I created my first back-to-back bar chart. Part II will tackle the small multiples.  Continue reading


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Why Are Evaluators So Tentative about the Advocacy Aspect of Our Profession? (Guest Post by Rakesh Mohan)

Rakesh Mohan, Idaho Legislature Office of Performance Evaluations

Rakesh Mohan

I’ve recently had the pleasure of meeting an evaluator whose work I’ve followed, and I invited him to write for Evaluspheric Perceptions. Rakesh Mohan has been a regular on EvalTalk, and I’ve admired him for putting his work out there and asking for feedback. In early 2014, his office released a report, Confinement of Juvenile Offenders, and I found myself curious enough to read it. Quite honestly, it wasn’t the topic that interested me, but rather, it was the idea of reading a governmental evaluation report produced by someone who is a great fan of and frequent presenter at the American Evaluation Association. Needless to say, the report impressed me to no end. Rakesh put into place nearly every principle of good evaluation reporting and data visualization that I have been learning and studying myself. I’m not the only one impressed by the work coming out of his office. In 2011, they received AEA’s Alva and Gunnar Myrdal Government Evaluation Award. Recent posts on two of my favorite blogs highlight the work of his office as well. One can be found at Better EvaluationWeek 15: Fitting reporting methods to evaluation findings – and audiences and the other at AEA365Sankey diagrams: A cool tool for explaining the complex flow of resources in large organizationsContinue reading


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When a Direct Question is NOT the Right Question

Who hasn’t answered the question, “What did you learn?” after attending a professional development session? As a PD facilitator and evaluator, I’ve certainly used feedback forms with this very question. After all, measuring participant learning is fundamental to PD evaluation.

In this post, I’ll share examples of actual data from PD evaluation in which we asked the direct question, “What did you learn?” I’ll then explain why this is a difficult question for PD participants to answer, resulting in unhelpful data. Next, I’ll offer a potential solution in the form of a different set of questions for PD evaluators to use in exploring the construct of participant learning. Finally, I’ll show where participant learning fits into the bigger picture of PD evaluation.  Continue reading


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Outputs are for programs. Outcomes are for people.

A recent experience reviewing a professional organization’s conference proposals for professional development sessions reminded me of the challenge program designers/facilitators encounter in identifying and articulating program outcomes. Time after time, I read “outcome” statements such as: participants will view video cases…, participants will hear how we approached…, participants will have hands-on opportunities to…, participants will experience/explore…and so on. What are these statements describing? Program activities. Program outputs. What are they not describing? Outcomes.  Continue reading


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Ask a Brilliant Question, Get an Elegant Answer?

With a properly-framed question, finding an elegant answer becomes almost straightforward.

-Stephen Wunker, Asking the Right Question

Here’s what every successful leader, coach, marketer, or teacher knows: You cannot understate the importance of asking the right questions.

It’s no different for evaluators.

Evaluation questions form the foundation of solid evaluations, while also serving to frame and focus the work. Starting with the right questions can impact the effectiveness and appropriateness of key programmatic decisions that rest on evaluation results. In fact, clearly defined evaluation questions are part and parcel to a successful evaluation – that is, one that is actionable and is used.  Continue reading


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Every Day is Thanksgiving Day!

Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving today, and while my personal practice is to give thanks every day, today certainly feels like the right day to share thanks to all who subscribe, follow, read, and comment on this blog.

In addition to my wonderful family and friends, good health, and other gifts, I have been blessed with the opportunity to enjoy my work. It hasn’t always been this way, but for many years now, I have truly enjoyed my work. I generally get up in the morning, look forward to going in, and take great pleasure and pride in the work that I do. In fact, most days I consider it fun.  Continue reading