Todd Langager, a program evaluation coordinator with the San Diego County Office of Education, told an engaging story at CERA’s conference on November 30, 2017. His title, “Flipping the Evaluation Narrative,” only hinted at the message. The core of his terrific talk was a lesson in story-telling, and the power of stories when communicating an evaluation of a program. Evaluators start by gathering stories, and then generalize their observations of the evidence, and write a report. Todd suggests that evaluators ask the subjects to write a story, complete with characters and plot. From that, Todd suggests that the program evaluators should build an evaluation that puts these human elements front and center.
Todd shared distilled the wisdom of advocates of this technique. This quote by author and Harvard professor of leadership, John Kotter, set the tone:
“Over the years I have become convinced that we learn best—and change—from hearing stories that strike a chord within us…Those in leadership positions who fail to grasp or use the power of stories risk failure for their organizations and for themselves.” – John Kotter.
His slide deck is a beautiful story in itself. It combines the motivation for story-telling, with the how-to guide he built from the experience of applying it to his work. It’s a lesson in literature, and in the art of persuasion. As a disciplined research professional, he measured his effect. Though small, he allowed for the possibility that measuring an effect size at a later date could prove more revealing.I encourage you to take a look at his slide deck, his description of his session, and the article he made available prior to the conference. His ideas are a long overdue antidote to soulless bureaucratic reporting writing, and will lead you in the direction of more human and effective writing.
Todd Langager, from San Diego CoE, presenting at CERA, 11/30/17