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David Williams explains the prevalence and significance of evaluations

People make hundreds of evaluations every day. Without realizing it, we are constantly evaluating our surroundings, our decisions, and our associates. The definition of the word evaluation might seem to lend itself to math problems or science labs, but really evaluation is just the act of choosing the best option available, whether it concerns what to eat for breakfast or what to study in college. “Evaluation is judging the balance between what is and what should be,” said McKay School faculty member David Williams, “It’s how people make choices.”

Williams and several colleagues, including fellow McKay School faculty member Stephen Yanchar, recently published an article titled “How do Instructional Designers Evaluate? A Qualitative Study of Evaluation in Practice,” which provides an in-depth look at how those working in the field of instructional design are constantly using evaluations, whether they are aware of this use or not. “The research didn’t start out addressing evaluations,” said Williams. “It started out as a study on how designers use or don’t use theory.” The focus of the article transitioned after the researchers found a controversial statement in the transcripts by one of the instructional designers being interviewed for the study. “Referring to formal evaluations, he said, ‘Evaluation? Evaluation is dead,’” Williams recounts. “And so I started combing through the study’s findings and marking all the evaluations I found.”

Intrigued by the idea of unrecognized evaluations, Williams went to work on the article. The publication is meant to show instructional designers exactly how much of their work relies on evaluation. “The goal is for instructional designers to read this, recognize evaluations in their work, and think ‘I do that all the time. I should talk to evaluation scholars so I can improve,’” said Williams. He also hopes the article will encourage educators and evaluation professionals to recognize the importance of teaching and using the 30 frequently overlooked meta-evaluation standards.

"Evaluations are everywhere."

Since so much of life consists of making choices, it’s no surprise that there are opportunities to be found for evaluations in work, education, and even religion. “Evaluations are everywhere,” said Williams, “People evaluate for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, here at BYU and in all the institutions and contexts of our lives all the time. I think it’s very important to encourage the teaching of evaluations.”

24 October 2011