Flow Chart of Formal Consensus
The Advantages of Formal Consensus
On Decision-Making
On Conflict and Consensus
The Art of Evaluation
Meetings can often be a time when some people experience feelings of frustrationor confusion. There is always room for improvement in the structure ofthe process and/or in the dynamics of the group. Often, there is no timeto talk directly about group interaction during the meeting. Reserve timeat the end of the meeting to allow some of these issues and feelings tobe expressed.

Evaluation is very useful when using consensus. It is worth the time.Evaluations need not take long, five to ten minutes is often enough. Itis not a discussion, nor is it an opportunity to comment on each other'sstatements. Do not reopen discussion on an agenda item. Evaluation is aspecial time to listen to each other and learn about each other. Thinkabout how the group interacts and how to improve the process.

Be sure to include the evaluation comments in the notes of the meeting.This is important for two reasons. Over time, if the same evaluation commentsare made again and again, this is an indication that the issue behind thecomments needs to be addressed. This can be accomplished by placing thisissue on the agenda for the next meeting. Also, when looking back at notesfrom meetings long ago, evaluation comments can often reveal a great dealabout what actually happened, beyond what decisions were made and reportsgiven. They give a glimpse into complex interpersonal dynamics.

Purpose of Evaluation

Evaluation provides a forum to address procedural flaws, inappropriatebehavior, facilitation problems, logistical difficulties, overall tone,etc. Evaluation is not a time to reopen discussion, make decisions or attemptto resolve problems, but rather, to make statements, express feelings,highlight problems, and suggest solutions in a spirit of cooperation andtrust. To help foster communication, it is better if each criticism iscoupled with a specific suggestion for improvement. Also, always speakfor oneself. Do not attempt to represent anyone else.

Encourage everyone who participated in the meeting to take part in theevaluation. Make comments on what worked and what did not. Expect differingopinions. It is generally not useful to repeat other's comments. Evaluationsprepare the group for better future meetings. When the process works well,the group responds supportively in a difficult situation, or the facilitatordoes an especially good job, note it, and appreciate work well done.

Do not attempt to force evaluation. This will cause superficial or irrelevantcomments. On the other hand, do not allow evaluations to run on. Be sureto take each comment seriously and make an attempt, at a later time, toresolve or implement them. Individuals who feel their suggestions are ignoredor disrespected will lose trust and interest in the group.

For gatherings, conferences, conventions or large meetings, the groupmight consider having short evaluations after each section, in additionto the one at the end of the event. Distinct aspects on which the groupmight focus include: the process itself, a specific role, a particulartechnique, fears and feelings, group dynamics, etc.

At large meetings, written evaluations provide a means for everyoneto respond and record comments and suggestions which might otherwise belost. Some people feel more comfortable writing their evaluations ratherthan saying them. Plan the questions well, stressing what was learned,what was valuable, and what could have been better and how. An evaluationcommittee allows an opportunity for the presenters, facilitators, and/orcoordinators to get together after the meeting to review evaluation comments,consider suggestions for improvement, and possibly prepare an evaluationreport.

Review and evaluation bring a sense of completion to the meeting. Agood evaluation will pull the experience together, remind everyone of thegroup's unity of purpose, and provide an opportunity for closing comments.

Uses of Evaluation

There are at least ten ways in which evaluation helps improve meetings.Evaluations:
  • Improve the process by analysis of what happened, why it happened, andhow it might be improved
  • Examine how certain attitudes and statements might have caused variousproblems and encourage special care to prevent them from recurring
  • Foster a greater understanding of group dynamics and encourage a methodof group learning or learning from each other
  • Allow the free expression of feelings
  • Expose unconscious behavior or attitudes which interfere with the process
  • Encourage the sharing of observations and acknowledge associations withsociety
  • Check the usefulness and effectiveness of techniques and procedures
  • Acknowledge good work and give appreciation to each other
  • Reflect on the goals set for the meeting and whether they were attained
  • Examine various roles, suggest ways to improve them, and create new onesas needed
  • Provide an overall sense of completion and closure to the meeting

Types of Evaluation Questions

It is necessary to be aware of the way in which questions are askedduring evaluation. The specific wording can control the scope and focusof consideration and affect the level of participation. It can cause responseswhich focus on what was good and bad, or right and wrong, rather than onwhat worked and what needed improvement. Focus on learning and growing.Avoid blaming. Encourage diverse opinions.

Some sample questions for an evaluation:

  • Were members uninterested or bored with the agenda, reports, or discussion?
  • Did members withdraw or feel isolated?
  • Is attendance low? If so, why?
  • Are people arriving late or leaving early? If so, why?
  • How was the overall tone or atmosphere?
  • Was there an appropriate use of resources?
  • Were the logistics (such as date, time, or location) acceptable?
  • What was the most important experience of the event?
  • What was the least important experience of the event?
  • What was the high point? What was the low point?
  • What did you learn?
  • What expectations did you have at the beginning and to what degree werethey met? How did they change?
  • What goals did you have and to what degree were they accomplished?
  • What worked well? Why?
  • What did not work so well? How could it have been improved?
  • What else would you suggest be changed or improved, and how?
  • What was overlooked or left out?


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