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Got Logic Models? We Think You Do!


Dr. Maritza Concha
Dr. Maria Elena Villar


MARITZA CONCHA: Hi everyone. This is Maritza Concha. I'm a lecturer in [INAUDIBLE] University, and I'm also an external evaluator. I'm here with my colleague and good friend Maria Elena Villar.

MARIA ELENA VILLAR: Hello, and thank you for having me to discuss your students' podcast. Like you, I'm also an educator and external evaluator, and we work on a lot of projects together. And I don't teach program evaluation specifically, but I teach research and strategic planning, which are both necessary competencies for program evaluation. So I am happy to be here.

MARITZA CONCHA: Just to remind everyone, Maria Elena will be a regular guest in the Elevate Evaluate podcast. I'm so happy and excited to be sharing this endeavor with you, Maria Elena, and I don't know, many of you may not know this, but I know Maria Elena since 2001. So Maria, do you remember how we met?

MARIA ELENA VILLAR: Yes. I remember that you came in to interview for a research assistant's position on a violence prevention project at the University of Miami, and that's the first time we worked together. And in working together, we realized that many organizations needed expertise in evaluation, that a lot of grants are requiring them, but they weren't sure how to do it. So we developed that skill and started to work together as external evaluators.

I also remember that your mom drove you to the interview, and she was waiting outside, which I thought was cute and very much in line with our culture.

MARITZA CONCHA: Oh my god. That is so funny. My mother used to go with me everywhere, and she still does whenever in town. After listening to both episodes, the Palmers Palace, Maria Elena, and Eloping to Alaska, what are your first reactions?

MARIA ELENA VILLAR: As an educator, I was particularly struck by how well the students grasp the concept of logic models by applying them to goals that they've set for themselves in their own lives. As they said themselves in their episodes, the exercise helped them to translate what could be kind of abstract concepts, if you think of them in a vacuum, to concrete steps and observations, and then making the linkages between that example and then planning and evaluating community services.

Specifically in Palmers Palace, I found it interesting that they thought of both tangible and intangible inputs, such as good credit, increasing knowledge on credit scores as a possible output, and that the outputs were quantifiable, like meeting six times with a realtor, checking credit with three agencies.

In the Eloping to Alaska case, I liked that they included the people that were getting married in the input. So that's really important to remember, that human beings are also inputs, right? And then the married couple was an output. That case demonstrated a good grasp of short, intermediate, and long term outcomes, with short term outcomes being concrete and measurable and observable, like having fun, capturing photos, and long term outputs were a kind of aspirational and broader, like achieving a happy marriage.

MARITZA CONCHA: I know. This is really, really exciting. And I think that my students have done a wonderful job doing this logic models. And I do remember that they, when we discussed this topic in my class, I taught the logic models always using organizations as case studies, but I never used a personal story as the main focus.

And as I mentioned in the introduction to this podcast, you've seen the Building Evaluation Capacity book by Preskill and Russ-Eft, and when I used this example, I saw that some of my students struggled distinguishing between the differences between outputs and outcomes. And it seems this is the part that is most difficult for students to grasp. And as external evaluator, Maria Elena, have you found this to be a problem as well?

MARIA ELENA VILLAR: Yeah. I find that clients often have difficulty distinguishing between inputs and activities, and between outputs and outcomes. I think that listening to these three episodes would actually help even clients, or anyone, understand the elements of the logic model and how they're interrelated and build on each other. Logic models are useful for both evaluation and program planning, so having a good grasp of how to use them is critical for both planners and evaluators.

I think your students did an excellent job with their examples, so congratulations on that.

MARITZA CONCHA: Thank you, Maria Elena, and I agree. I think this is-- I also have found it very difficult, explaining this to my clients as an external evaluator. And I think to bring down the technical terms in terms that are understandable by everyone is the key to make things simple. So you think this podcast is a good idea, or is a good way for students to apply what they learned in class?

MARIA ELENA VILLAR: Absolutely. I mean, explaining concepts to others is a great way to solidify your own knowledge of things. So I think this assignment is genius in many ways. And another, perhaps unintended benefit of making this assignment a podcast is that they can be both produced and listened to during the physical distancing restrictions that we're facing now with the COVID-19 crisis. We've all had to figure out ways to take our teaching online, and this just seems like a brilliant way for students to create an assignment. And using this medium, you've also created content that can be shared virtually and can serve current students and future students and other interested people. It's fantastic.

Thank you so much for having me as a guest today. I always learn new things when we collaborate. I look forward to hearing the work of your future students. And actually, with your permission, I may borrow the idea for my own classes.

MARITZA CONCHA: Oh, please do so. This is just, you know, I'm trying new things here and so if anybody finds this to be very helpful, please go ahead and use this as an idea. And thank you, Maria Elena, for participating. And then to our audience, please let us know what you think, what is some of your feedback, suggestions, and please do not forget to subscribe. Thank you.



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