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From: "Ken Aitken" <>
Subject: RE: [APG] Program/lecture evaluations
Date: Wed, 26 Oct 2005 14:00:32 -0600
In-Reply-To: <006301c5da5c$1e2e62d0$2800a8c0@LISSA>

Thanks to Elissa, and others who commented to me privately, for your

As I tweek the evaluation form I am amazed that the number of questions
that tell me "what a good presenter you are!" outnumber the ones that start
to pinpoint areas that I can build on. Its not just because of my 25 years
experience lecturing and teaching, but a product of questions that do not
really inform me on what was happening in the learning experience.
I am going to keep the questions that ask, for example
"What did you like most about this presentation?"
"What did you like least about this presentation?"

as these two open ended questions got some important feedback, and produced
some quotes I can use in promoting my services as a genealogy educator.

But I expect to drop some likethese questions that have ratings on a 1-5
How extensive was the presenter's knowledge of the subject matter?
How would you rate the facility where the presentation was given?
because I can determine these myself.

There are other questions that I need to rewrite. I need one to rate how
difficult the program was for the learner, for example.

Elissa and several others commented about the challenge of meeting learners
expectancies. When I get comments and ratings that suggest there
incongruence in expectations, I tend to go back to the promotion, and the
advertising material. At a recent conference I lead one of my article
discussions. The host was to get the article and the instructions and study
questions out three weeks in advance to these people. Only the article and
an abbreviated set of instructions went out. Frankly, I was lucky to salvage
the session. I learned to control or direct as much as possible the
process of promotion to target it on a prepared audience.This may mean
preparing the advertising copy, preparing a set of instructions, taking on
critical roles in mentoring the host group's assigned people, etc. Sort of
like the message I heard at church: pray like it all depends on divine
intervention, and work like it depends entirely on yourself! And be prepared
for Murphy's law to operate.

The honest comments of a few learners have been very helpful to me in seeing
the potential of some of my lectures becoming workshops. I guess I was ready
to listen. I have been reading books on how to run those professional
seminars like those in the business world.From a learners perspective, If
you already know the information in the lecture, you do not need to lecture
or the workshop to learn it. You might find the lecture helpful to enthuse
yourself to perform better. But if you need to learn that material the 2
hour to 3 hour workshop with hands-on practice, case studies etc., seems
like a good thing.

Now switch over to the position of the presenter getting $x per hour to
lecture or teach in some way. Would it not be better to get paid $2.5x or
$3x for the same material in a better learning environment than just $x for
the 1 hour lecture? I hope I heard someone say Aha!

So I am going to create a revised 1 hour presentation and a 2.5 hour
workshop on these topics and market both. And thank you to those honest
replies in my program evaluation form for opening my eyes.

Do others use evaluation forms?


Kenneth G. Aitken
Prairie History Librarian
Regina Public Library
Regina, Saskatchewan Canada

-----Original Message-----
From: Elissa Scalise Powell, CGRS [mailto:]
Sent: Wednesday, October 26, 2005 12:36 PM
Subject: RE: [APG] Program/lecture evaluations

Your comments are very interesting reading. I just got back from a lecture
in a city two hours from me and although people come up afterward to say how
much they learned, I often wonder what other comments am I not hearing that
could be geared to improving the lecture.

I think you nailed it on the head when you said that this lecture may not
have met the expectations or experience level of this particular crowd. You
can change it, but then the next crowd may not like the changes because they
are an entirely different group with different experiences and expectations.

Advertising who the lecture is for should help but in a poorly advertised
event, this doesn't always work. I have lately taken to quizzing the
audience right after my introduction for the number of years they have been
doing genealogy and therefore I know how much time to spend on the simpler
elements or the more complex ones. I do like to tailor my talk a little so
that the majority will benefit. And that is also a fact of life -- one can
only try to please the majority, not everyone.

I am not surprised by the reactions from your beginner/intermediate crowd. I
would suspect the comments came more from the beginners who have never
contemplated what you talked about and therefore wanted to see it outlined
on their handout. Also they are not advanced enough to take your illustrated
anecdotes and apply the principles to their research problems -- they just
heard it as a family story and one they weren't interested in because it was
not their family.

I would daresay that you enthused your audience to the point they wanted
more (hence the workshop and hands-on ideas). I find my classes always want
more when we are done with the course. At that point I usually turn them on
to society meetings as a place to get more.

Although I have not handed out evaluation forms to anyone but my college
classes, I have asked audience members to give a critical review of the
lecture. Some of these are professional lecturers and people I respect so I
am sure they know what they are talking about having been behind the podium

Good luck and keep up the good work!

-- Elissa

Elissa Scalise Powell, CG
CG and Certified Genealogist are Service Marks of the Board for
Certification of Genealogists used under license after periodic evaluations
by the Board. http://www.BCGcertification.org/

-----Original Message-----
From: Kenneth G. Aitken [mailto:]
Sent: Wednesday, October 26, 2005 11:00 AM

I am working through several drafts of program or lecture evaluation forms
for those who attend my events. I was wondering what others have done.

Yesterday I gave my lecture "Overcoming the Curse of Floating Bits of Paper:
Keeping Research Notes and Research Logs" to a mixed group of beginner and
intermediate level genealogists. This lecture has a nice handout and a good
powerpoint presentation-- or so I thought. But the feedback forms have been
* I learned that many depend on my handouts as a total outline and wanted me
to refer more to the outline.
* My illustrative anecdotes were loved by the majority, but several thought
they made the lecture too long
*And while some wanted more hands-on than a lecture, others wanted it
compressed into less time.

The point is, the feedback was generally positive, but rather revealing of a
mismatch between my lecture and what many wanted. Without the feedback, I
would not be sitting here this morning thinking about what to cut, and what
to add in the lecture. And it reinforced the importance of advertising
clearly who the lecture was intended for.

Two weeks ago I did two lectures in another city for the local library. A
very disappointingly planned event. My lectures went well, and I
remembered to handout a program evaluation form (an earlier draft). The
number attending was smaller, Most of the evaluation questions were the
same. This time the feedback helped me see that one particular lecture
should be expanded into a half-day hands-on workshop.

The comments from the evaluation have shown me that some of my lectures,
developed and refined over many years have better learning potential if they
could be exppanded into a 2 or 2.5 hour workshop.

Do any of you use an evaluation form with your lectures. What has it taught

Kenneth G. Aitken,
Family History Education Services,
Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

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