Always Learning - Visualizations

It’s not true! You can teach an old dog new tricks!

For years, I have referred to the Periodic Table of Visualization Methods. As a total nerd, I love the periodic table format, and I’ve found it very useful to peruse various ways of visualizing the data as I’m working on reports. I’d get ideas, adapt them to my own style, and strive to make the data more accessible and clearer to my clients. I’m not saying the periodic table is bad – it’s still a great reference and it’s been a wonderful resource to me for years, but I’ve now discovered my next visualization go-to web site!

Last week, at the Michigan Evaluation Association’s 21st Annual Conference, I participated in high-quality sessions the entire day. One of the presentations, created by Lyssa Wilson and Emma Perks, focused on data visualization. I tend to like simple visualizations. It may be somewhat because I’m not a graphic designer and can’t do some of the more complex ones, but it may also be because I feel the simplest way to get a message across to clients is the best way to encourage their use of the data and recommendations.

One of the resources Lyssa shared was the Data Visualisation Catalogue. Oh where have you been all my life? Not only can you look at data viz options in a much cleaner, crisper format, you can also click into them to find out what type of data they’re best used for, how to create them, and what software could be used to create them more efficiently. The Data Visualisation Catalogue is something that is useful to me as an evaluator, and it will help me create more useful representations of data for my clients. I’m in love!

I’ve been in the evaluation field for almost 20 years, and sometimes people get stodgy when they’ve worked in the same field for that long. They believe the tried and true ways of their youth are the only ways to do something. I love to learn. I love to apply new learning. I love to use cutting edge technology. It’s great when we’re able to learn a new twist on something that’s been done for years and apply it in a meaningful way to our work.

DR. TACKETT’S USEFUL TIP: Force yourself to participate in a learning opportunity at least once a year…a webinar, a workshop, a conference. Of course the professional relationships and sharing is always valuable, but you may just learn something that could help improve your practice.

Special Note: Thank you to the MAE board and membership for honoring me with the John A. Seeley Friend of Evaluation Award this year. It is given annually to an individual or organization that has made a consistent and continuing leadership contribution to the field of evaluation by actively embracing and promoting its use. I’m particularly honored have received the same award my mentor, Dr. James Sanders, was given in 2000, and to receive the award at the same time that my friend and colleague, Dr. Laurie Van Egeren, was given the MAE Service Award. Congratulations, Laurie!