Thursday, 15 January 2009

Evaluation Mtg - part 2

Evaluating a chocolate-chip cookie

During the evaluation meeting (14 Jan 2008) we were asked to evaluate a chocolate chip cookie. We did this in our cluster.

We were presented with four bowls filled with a whole cookie and bite size pieces of the same cookie. We were asked to devise evaluation criteria that we could use to choose the best cookie. Sure the exercise might not be overly related to our project but (putting that aside and chomping away) the exercise drew up lots of interesting observations.

We spent a long time drawing up a very long and extensive list.

Naturally taste was on the list but so too was colour, distribution of choc-chips, density of choc-chips, look of cookie, crunchiness, chewiness, buttery-ness, smell, size, cost, packaging, etc. The list goes on...

Having identified the list we then tasted them. It was interesting that after producing the list someone immediately said something about a cookie that was not on the list!

This asks the question can all useful evaluation criterion be identified before the evaluation takes place ?- I wonder if this resonates with the notion of the unexpected consequences?

I struggled to offer any sensible thoughts and did not have a sophisticated enough palette to sense/taste and hence talk about buttery-ness. It was also suggested that just because we might be able to identify criteria they might not be relevant. This was certainly the case with me on the buttery-ness criterion.

Another group mentioned they just went for ‘taste’ And this reminded me of notions of connoisseurship. Can we really set out what we looking to measure or is there a sense of connoisseurship that has a part to part to play here too?.

The obvious things arose from the wider group about

* just because you can measure it, it doesn’t mean it's important and
* nothing ever improved/grew/enhanced by being measured alone.
Hmm, I’m mindful here of the Hawthorne Effect.

Nevertheless, these were some useful reminders as we now engage in developing our evaluation plan. There were certainly some useful lessons to learn from this exercise.


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