At the AEA conference this fall in Atlanta, well-known Canadian evaluator Gail Barrington received the 2016 AEA Alva and Gunnar Myrdal Evaluation Practice Award for her outstanding evaluation practice and contributions to the field. Dr. Barrington is an accomplished evaluation consultant, teacher, and writer. Since founding her consulting firm, Barrington Research Group, Inc. in 1985, she has conducted over 130 program evaluation studies in the fields such as education and health. She shares her evaluation experience and knowledge as a respected university instructor and is widely known for her professional development contributions at conference workshops and webinars. Many junior evaluators have benefited from her mentorship. A prolific writer, she contributes to newsletter columns and blogs on evaluation and consulting topics, as well as academic publications. Her book, Consulting Start-up and Management: A Guide for Evaluators and Applied Researchers, (Sage, 2012) remains a popular reference for those contemplating independent practice. Dr. Barrington is an important and admired contributor to the evaluation community in Canada and the US. She is currently Vice President of the national CES Board of Directors and Chair of the Credentialing Board, responsible for the Credentialed Evaluator (CE) Designation.
In her remarks upon receiving the award, Dr. Barrington reflected on what it means to be an evaluation practitioner and outlined three important characteristics:
“Embrace your primary discipline—it will colour your practice. The foundational discipline in which you were first trained, early career experience, and organizational knowledge help to frame your perspective as an evaluator.
Be a reflective practitioner. To improve your practice, you don’t just fix problems and then move on, you analyze them critically, experiment with solutions, reflect on their success, and take your adaptations forward to your next project.
Be open to the unexpected. Sometimes, seemingly random events and messages are actually key to solving a problem you may have or signposts to new opportunities you almost didn’t recognize or pathways to new territories you never thought you’d visit. If you can listen a little harder, use your peripheral vision, and become aware of the unexpected patterns and strange music, your practice will expand in exciting and possibly spectacular, directions”.
Well done and congratulations, Gail!