One of my ongoing projects is to evaluate work-based learning at Harper. I started out with a very clear process in mind, each initiative would be considered in terms of its impact on staff, learners and employers. The methods available included interviews and questionnaires as well as focus groups: All very familiar. To facilitate the engagement with learners a more natural approach was needed than making cold calls, with this in mind I looked to try to squeeze a focus group in to the time when learners were on-site … time was tight when learners were on campus and so that was not likely or desirable. Instead, I bought some new wellies (10 pm the evening before in Tesco) dug out some waterproofs and joined their field trip. This took me back to Geography field trips of old! Despite having very inappropriate wellies, I very much enjoyed the trip and found it a very productive way of entering into a dialogue with work-based learners. The approach was not imposing (at least I hope not) and it was utilising times between field sites and briefings to chat to learners. The biggest challenge for me was retaining the detail, but I was able to take notes when the group were on task. This is an approach that I would definitely use again.
So far the evaluation work is unfolding though perhaps not in the sequential and tidy way in which I would neatly like it to be occurring, but such is the nature of the beast.
As I go forwards with this work I need to use whatever moments are available to gather data, planned or unplanned, data is in fact still data! Evaluative responses should be non-intrusive, proportionate, appropriate and listening.