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Understanding the relationship between evaluation and learning

This video explains how work, evaluation and learning are inextricably linked and can support a culture of continual learning within your organisation

In this step you will learn how work, evaluation and learning are inextricably linked and can support a culture of continual learning within your organisation.

Working is learning and learning is work: the value of embedding evaluation in your organisation

An example of the relationship between working and learning in earlier and recent times with the title "Working is learning, learning is working". Full description linked below.Click here to zoom the image

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Evaluation is sometimes used to demonstrate that an organisation has achieved its project goals, and how. Whilst useful, this ‘means-to-an-end’ mindset limits the wider learning potential of evaluation by siloing the practice on a need-to-know basis. It’s important to remember that organisations operate as a system, and no system can function effectively and efficiently if evaluation and learning is syphoned off as ‘separate to work’.

Evaluation is most effective when embedded as an on-going process rather than as a discrete, time-limited activity. Embedding evaluation supports active learning and a growth mindset. It positively channels curiosity and a willingness to learn from mistakes, and places these in the service of continual improvement. This learning becomes part of the work, the work of reaching your fullest organisational potential.

Evaluation enables organisations to learn from past processes and experiences, with the intention to change, adapt and improve performance going forwards. In doing so, it creates a positive environment of learning-by-doing. In this context, failure is not something to be feared, but an opportunity to learn.

Embedding evaluation in your organisation

So how might you begin to embed evaluation in your organisation?

Organisational change

Embedding evaluation often requires organisational change. It’s important therefore that there is buy-in from within the leadership team and across the organisation. You can work towards this by:

  • ensuring your evaluation plan aligns with internal strategies
  • ensuring the organisation understands the benefits of evaluation and learning
  • creating a sense of ownership by involving people from across the organisation in setting goals and developing the evaluation function
  • emphasising the relevance of the evaluation activity to people’s work.

Careful planning

Setting up and embedding an evaluation function requires careful planning. It may be beneficial to start small and then iteratively find ways of improving and extending how you fold evaluation into your everyday work. Here are some practical steps and considerations:

  • create a realistic evaluation plan
  • fold in on-going and project based work
  • build in time for the evaluation across all workstreams
  • design a data capture system that fits into everyday work
  • ensure you have adequate capacity and resources to support it
  • develop channels to share the learning
  • create dedicated time and space for processing the learning
  • organise ways to turn the insight into actionable steps

On-going value

Once the evaluation is up-and-running, you will need to demonstrate its on-going value. Importantly, you also need to ensure people don’t feel vulnerable by opening their processes to scrutiny. You can achieve this by:

  • communicating the evaluation findings on an ongoing basis
  • demonstrating how you have applied them
  • sharing and celebrating successes
  • positioning failure as an opportunity to learn.

Underpinning all of this is a commitment to reflective practice. Without reflection, it’s hard to extract the full learning potential of the data you have surfaced.

The next section is about the benefits of reflective practice and provides a step-by-step guide on how to do it.

Have your say

  • In what ways are your evaluation activities strategically aligned?
  • How are you embedding evaluation findings into active learning?
  • Can you identify any strengths and weaknesses in this process?
  • How might you address this?
  • Consider what your peers are doing differently that could add value to your approach.
Share and discuss your thoughts with other learners in the Comments section. Try to respond to at least two other posts made by other learners.
This article is from the free online

Evaluation for Arts, Culture, and Heritage: Principles and Practice

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FutureLearn - Learning For Life

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