In this blog, Mary McKaskill our Practice Development Manager, shares her thoughts from the Centre’s recent Practice Development Day and initial reflections on the feedback that was shared with us afterwards.
On Monday 2 March 2020, we hosted our second Practice Development Day, which is a one-day introduction to our Asking Good Questions Framework. The Asking Good Questions Framework serves as a guide for meaningful evaluation with young people where all data collected should generate actionable insight. The day brought together 24 practitioners to reflect on their evaluation practice and consider approaches for embedding continuous improvement cycles into their work.
Our framework recommends careful monitoring of user and engagement data, staff observations and reflective practice, listening and responding to young people’s feedback, and collecting data outcomes only when it used to support relationships with young people and inform how support is shaped to meet their needs. While not all of these concepts are new, they are the approaches that speak directly to the heart of what we believe constitutes meaningful evaluation that can be embedded into the fabric and culture of an organisation, rather than being bolted on; prioritises learning and reflection over proving and defensiveness; and enhances practice, rather than undermines it.
Feedback collected at the end of the day suggests enthusiasm for the approaches we recommend...
“confident that the tools will inform my practice and also help my team”
… but also that the change in systems and culture around evaluation practice feels daunting
“Some elements I will try to implement but I’m daunted by the scale of change required”
These approaches needn’t be overly complex, but do require resource in terms of systems and time to spend actively learning about practice. In fact, many of the approaches that we advocate for in our approach are not new, like monitoring and feedback loops. The structured observation tools that we are piloting in the UK to understand quality of practice and young people's social and emotional learning outcomes, the Youth Programme Quality Intervention (YPQI) and the Adult Rating of Youth Behaviour (ARYB), are new to the UK. In general we feel that structured observation as a method is under-utilised in evaluation practice.
“The practice around observation was something new to me and sparked conversations and ideas”
We are excited by the enthusiasm to pilot these approaches in the UK collectively, with cohorts of organisations. One person fed back that:
“The section on observation made me realise we focus way too much on the individual and not a team effort”
This feeling also applies to the fact that for too long evaluation has been focussed on organisational level quality and impact, in an effort to claim individual attribution over young people’s outcomes, rather than taking a consistent sector-wide approach to understanding quality and consistency in youth provision and the collective impact that communities have on young people’s lives.
A final piece of feedback to share and reflect on is this:
“I feel that I have a lot to do for initial data collection and storage, which is daunting but exciting if I pull it off”
Together, we can pull this off.
We understand that implementing new tools and ways of working often requires changing parts of the organisation’s culture as well. This can take time and needn’t be done all at once. While we do believe that it’s possible to answer all six questions in our Asking Good Questions Framework simultaneously, start the cycle of inquiry with the first question, ‘Why do we do what we do?’, and work through them in a turn at a pace that makes sense for your organisation and programme cycle(s). Questions can’t be skipped and important time must be spent establishing the foundation and enabling factors for meaningful learning to take place.
For more information, visit our this page on the site.
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