For the second year in a row, psychology graduate students from Memorial University are competing in the Canadian Evaluation Society (CES) Student Evaluation Case Competition finals.
Olivia Cleary and Sandra Parsons are second year master’s of applied psychological science (MAPS) students and were also members of last year’s finalist team. This year, they have been joined by Marshal Rodrigues and Laura Fallon, both first-year MAPS students, along with Zak Keeping, a master’s in experimental psychology graduate student.
The case competition is a joint venture between the CES and the Canadian Evaluation Society Education Fund. Each year, teams of students from across Canada receive a request for a proposal to evaluate a program. The teams are then given five and a half hours to work collaboratively to produce a proposal, which is submitted to judges for review.
This year 20 teams participated in the Feb. 6 qualifying round, which saw one of two Memorial teams selected to move on, along with teams from the University of Guelph and the University of Saskatchewan, last year’s winners.
“It was a surprise that the University of Waterloo was shut out, as that university had been in the finals every year for the past 10 years,” Sandra Parsons said
The program evaluation proposal the students submitted had several requirements, including background research on the organization and its stakeholders, development of a logic model illustrating the linkages that make the program work and evaluation questions and proposed methods for answering them, as well as solutions to anticipated challenges that would arise over the course of the evaluation.
“We divided the tasks prior to the competition and prepared templates for our own sections,” said Ms. Cleary. “On the day of the competition, we brainstormed for the first hour and really thought out all of our ideas, so every section of our proposal linked up and was consistent with the rest.”
The team, which is coached by Shannon Aylward and Laura May, both active members of the local CES chapter, ran through a practice competition two weeks prior to the real event; they also gave feedback on the dry run so the team had time to work on their weaknesses.
Finals June 5-8
The three finalists will go head-to-head during the CES national conference in St. John’s June 5-8. Anyone attending the conference can drop in and watch the team’s final presentation to a board of judges.
“It’s great because they get to put a face to our work,” said Ms. Rodrigues. “So when we are networking later on, it’s a nice icebreaker.”
As part of the prize for placing in the finals, CES pays the team’s conference fees and allows them to participate in several events.
“The national conference is an excellent networking opportunity and a great chance to build our evaluation skills and chat with a lot of very knowledgeable people,” said Ms. Cleary. “Last year, as a first-year student going into the finals in this competition, it really sparked my interest in evaluation. It was one of my first practical experiences with it and it was really fun, but also a great learning experience.”
The team praises the local CES chapter for encouraging students to get involved with the competition and for hosting several preparatory sessions with experts in the field, not only to help the Memorial participants get ready for the competition, but to support students in any discipline interested in program evaluation.
“A lot of people in the evaluation community know about this competition because they are graduates of our program, and I’ve already been asked in job interviews if I’ve participated in it and what I’ve learned from it,” said Ms. Parsons. “It’s really great preparation.”