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4 Key Takeaways from the 2019 American Evaluation Association Conference

By Nada Mousa
Data and Evaluation Program Associate

As a first time attendee of the American Evaluation Association  (AEA) conference, I didn’t know what to expect. Would I have the opportunity to make meaningful connections with fellow evaluators? Would I learn something that would be useful to my role as an evaluator in the education equity industry?

In the day-to-day excitement of the conference, I found moments of reflection that helped me answer these questions.  My four key takeaways are:

1. Sessions that have an interactive component are exciting!

The sessions that captured my interest were ones where speakers invited the audience to participate throughout the presentation.  The audience’s engagement opened opportunities to hear how colleagues in the field approach their work. Moreover, by illustrating the session’s objectives and methods through an activity, I could better grasp the content.

2. The opportunity to connect with professionals in the field is priceless.

Nothing compares to being in one space surrounded by others who do the work you love and the chance to learn from each other on how to better serve the field. One of the very first sessions I attended affirmed my experiences as both an evaluator and database developer. Sitting amongst twenty or so professionals focused on building effective database systems provided me the opportunity to discuss strategies and best practices.

3. Social justice and equity are the future of evaluation.

The night before my colleagues and I presented on “Coming from a positive place: Reimagining how we evaluate educational data,” I discovered that ‘equity’ and ‘cultural responsiveness’ are key themes of AEA 2019.  It’s inspiring to see evaluators coming from diverse professional background and roles and attend and engage in sessions- such as ours- around equitable evaluation practices.

4. Diverse topics throughout the conference illustrate creative approaches to the practice of evaluation.

While the central theme of the conference is evaluation, the individual sessions approached the work from diverse perspectives across industries. I attended a session focused on the role of Blockchain technology in social justice work.  I came with zero background knowledge about Blockchain and left thinking up new ways to incorporate the safety features that Blockchain offers in MAEC’s data system.

Overall, AEA’s conference exceeded my expectations. I left feeling empowered with new knowledge to apply to my work here at MAEC and pleased at the commitment to educational equity that I saw in the organizers and in the participants. .


The MAEC blog is designed to engage hearts and minds of school and district leaders across the country to engage in issues that you have identified as being essential in education. Opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization.

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