Mindfulness-Informed Program Evaluation

wooden bridge over a creek surrounded by rocks and greenery

I recently led a skill-building workshop titled, Integrating Mindfulness into the Practice and Use of Evaluation at the American Evaluation Association national conference in Minneapolis. We went over various mindfulness-based practices and how to use them to inform our work. It was a lot of fun and thanks to those of you who attended.



Since then, I have been thinking more about how I can better incorporate my mindfulness practice into my evaluation and other work.



What does mindfulness mean?

First off, it’s worth clarifying what the term “mindfulness” means. Mindfulness can be defined as present moment awareness in a non-judgmental way, resulting in an openness to and acceptance of experience. You can practice mindfulness while meditating or while doing everyday activities like eating, walking, or working. Over the last 30 years, mindfulness-based program studies have found a wide range of psychological and health benefits.



Practicing Mindfulness

Maintaining a regular meditation practice is not easy. However, it tends to be easier for me to sustain mindfulness when meditating compared with when I am engaged in complex tasks such as program evaluation work or teaching graduate students. For me, one of the primary goals of meditation and other mindfulness practices is to improve the quality of my interactions with others, how I manage and function in the world.

  • I mentioned during the workshop that my evaluation work is informed by mindfulness in a similar manner to how I attempt to incorporate it into other aspects of my life. With respect to my evaluation practice, it has helped me by improving or increasing the following: Awareness of my emotional state and how it impacts the way I view and work on a project.
  • Noting of cognitive biases that can impact how I design evaluations and interpret findings.
  • Noticing when I prematurely come to conclusions or categorizations of things as “good” or “bad.”
  • Observing and incorporating insights and intuitions as they present themselves.
  • Fully attending to the task or experience at hand and less multi-tasking.
  • Bridging the gap between how I should practice evaluation and how I actually practice it.
 
 

How could or does a mindfulness practice impact the work you do?

Also, I mentioned this during the workshop and in a previous post, I’ve wondered why, after 20 or so years of thinking about it, I finally started to meditate and maintain a daily practice. How did it become a habit for me? Many talk about what to do, different techniques and practices, but there is less of a focus on how to establish a consistent habit. In this video, Making Meditation a Habit, I use the model laid out by James Clear in Atomic Habits to explain how it became a habit for me.



What do you think?

“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished; that will be the beginning.” Louis L’Amour




Related posts:

Mechanisms of Mindfulness

Mindfulness-Informed Program Evaluation

Depression & Exercise, Cohen’s U3, Impact of Vaping & Super Thinking

Mindfulness and Program Evaluation

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James Pann smiling at the camera, sitting in front of green trees

James Pann, Ph.D. is a Professor at Nova Southeast University and a highly experienced psychologist and evaluator with nearly 25 years of experience. He conducts research and evaluation projects with non-profit organizations in the fields of health, human services, and education, and has received funding from multiple government agencies.

James holds multiple degrees including a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology, an M.S. Ed. from the University of Miami, and a BBA in Accounting from the University of Texas at Austin. He is also the host of the EvalNetwork podcast, a frequent conference presenter, and has published several peer-reviewed research articles and co-authored a book. James currently resides in Miami, Florida with his family and enjoys backpacking trips. Find out more about his work here.

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