Coaches—Beginning

At the start of your work in Public Achievement, take some time to learn about evaluation and its role in Public Achievement. Evaluation is one of the more vital skills a coach or team member can take from Public Achievement. Among other benefits, it helps you operate smoothly on a week to week basis, examine how your work is progressing, prevent misunderstandings, clarify roles, and assess the overall impact of your project. Evaluation also provides the time and space to identify things that a group has learned from the session, work, or event.

Evaluation improves the quality of your team’s work because it ensures they are staying true to their initial goals, provides space for learning and strategic thinking, and develops accountability. It requires that you think critically about what you have done, personally, and then collectively as a team.

At times we think of evaluating only at the very end of a project; however, for evaluation to be truly effective, the team should do it every step of the way. We suggest that you use evaluation at the end of every session, at particular events or teachable moments, periodically as you progress in your work, and at the end of your project to assess its overall impact.

The role of evaluation in Public Achievement

  • Evaluation gives young people an opportunity to learn and practice valuable skills.
  • Evaluation facilitates relationship building among team members.
  • The process of engaging in evaluation is empowering – knowledge gained is power to change the course of direction or reinforce what is working in the team.
  • Evaluation is a democratic means to hear what each team member has to say about the process, project, or issue.
  • Young people can be encouraged to share their results with peers, teachers, school staff and administration. Public presentation of the work makes visible the accomplishments of the group.
  • Young people will be ready to respond to the question: what are you learning in public achievement?
  • Evaluation is a way to learn about and see accountability.
  • It requires individuals to think critically about what has been done, personally and collectively as a team.

Evaluation improves the quality of your team’s work.

  • It provides a means for checking in to see if you are keeping in line with your mission statement and goals of your team.
  • It provides the team with an opportunity to identify or name what is being learned.
  • It is an opportunity to reinforce the core concepts and skills being developed in the team.
  • It provides the team with a documented record of your team’s progress.

How do you prevent evaluation from becoming the dreaded end of the meeting routine?

Sometimes evaluation becomes routine and is limited to what worked, what didn’t, and what can we do better. It is important not to fall into patterns and not accept pat answers. Create a plan for how you will plan your evaluation and reflection sessions. The more time you spend thinking through this aspect of your work, the more rewarding the experience will be for you and your group.

Below are a variety of methods you can use to evaluate and reflect with your Public Achievement team. Read through the list and think about how you might use these methods with your team.

Journal writing – You can have team members keep an individual or group journal. Journals can be snapshots filled with sights, sounds, smells, concerns, insights, doubts, fears, and critical questions about issues, people and community work. Honesty is an important ingredient to successful journals. A journal is not a work log of tasks, events, times and dates. Public Achievement journals are public in nature not private. You can pose a question each week in which team members respond. Responses can be shared periodically by having students read them.

Portfolios – Portfolios are a collection of artifacts that you collect and assemble in a book, binder or the like. You can collect articles, artwork, photos, and evaluation forms to put in your portfolio. Collect anything that helps to tell the story of your group. You can use the portfolio as a way to demonstrate what you have accomplished. It is a tangible way to show your group’s accountability and commitment to the issue. It can also be used in public presentations or meetings as a means to illustrate the group’s efforts. Portfolios can be individual or team efforts.

Small group discussion – If there are two coaches in your group, break it up so that the group is smaller and have discussion around one or two questions. If there is one coach, have the young people write down their responses individually and share them with the group. Questions can focus on group process, team dynamics, project development, and core concepts.

Check-ins and check-outs – At the beginning of the meeting, check in with group members to see what was covered last week and discuss any progress made among group members since that time. At the end, check to see what was accomplished, how the group is progressing and where you are headed for the next meeting.

Use of visual art – This is an underutilized but powerful evaluation tool. Create presentations using graphic arts, photography, painting, drawing, collage, theater, dance and music. If you are in a school setting, ask the art or media teacher for some ideas and/or extra supplies. Take it a step beyond the group and present it to another Public Achievement group, teacher or community group.

Multi-media – Young people love to use technology. There are a variety of ways to use media as an evaluation tools. If you are rehearsing for a public presentation, you can film the students and have them do self-critiques. Use digital photos or slides for documentation and presentation; create a video essay about your group/issue/progress; or put together a power point presentation that tells the story of your group. The nature of this kind of evaluation lends itself to sharing the work publicly.

Games – Use game formats to conduct evaluation. For example, make up a board game with evaluation questions placed throughout the board (use props – dice, cards, etc) or make up flash cards with evaluation/reflection questions. Students will enjoy the change of pace that games provide. It may also help quieter students to participate.

One-on-ones – Have the young people interview one another or go outside your group and have them interview young people from another Public Achievement group. Look at the tools in the other sections of the Evaluation Toolkit for ideas on what kinds of questions to ask.