Save Time and Add Style: Creating an Icon Gallery for Reporting

At Magnolia Consulting, we use icons in a variety of ways to illustrate key ideas and takeaways in our reporting. Icons provide a quick visual reference for readers of infographics and written reports. Once we began incorporating icons into our various reporting methods, we quickly learned that there are a lot of available icons. To streamline our process for selecting and using icons, we created the Magnolia Icon Gallery. This tool saves time and ensures a consistent icon style across reporting methods.

If you spend a lot of time hunting for icons, it might be useful for you to create an icon gallery of your own. Below are some tips to consider when creating an icon gallery.

  • Locate icons on the web. We recommend checking out The Noun Project and IconFinder (see our full list of icon websites here). While some of these resources offer free icons, others require a paid account for full use of the icon collection. When looking for icons, always pay attention to the citation and license requirements of the icon.
  • Use the right file format. If you download icons in PNG file types, they are easy to resize and have a transparent background. This makes it easier to insert your icon on any color background. If you use Inkscape or Illustrator, you can also download them in an SVG file. This format allows you to change the color and design of the icon (again, pay attention to copyright requirements).
  • Consider icon style. When putting together an icon gallery, remember to be mindful of the style of icons that are being used. It will look more professional to have a consistent style of icons across all of your reporting. For example, some icons are simple outlines, while others are filled in or block style. Identify your organization’s preferred icon style and try to stick with that when downloading icons.
  • Identify commonly used phrases for icons. To determine what icons are needed, try working collaboratively with colleagues to identify key words and phrases that are commonly expressed as icons in any reporting. This decreases the need to search for icons every time they are required. For example, we regularly use icons to represent the words “student,” “teacher,” and “school.” We recommend having a few options for each key word to prevent repetitive icons.
  • Download icons. Create a process for combing through the key words and downloading icons. At Magnolia, we divided up the key words between team members, downloaded three to five options for each word, and then voted on our favorites.
  • Organize your icon gallery. Once the icons have all been selected, organize them in a readily accessible location. Ours are available in shared folders for quick access.

If you are regularly using icons, you may want to consider creating an icon gallery to save time and ensure consistent icon style and usage. Try out the tips above to get started on creating your gallery!

School Employee Sexual Misconduct Study Finds K-12 School Districts Fail to Implement Key Elements of Title IX

Charlottesville, VA (Oct. 31, 2017) — An estimated one in ten K–12 students—about 4.5 million children—will experience sexual abuse at the hands of a school employee at some point in their education, according to one study. Yet, a recent Department of Justice–sponsored study conducted by Magnolia Consulting, a Charlottesville-based education research firm, suggests that K–12 school districts might not fully implement federal guidance for preventing and responding to school employee sexual misconduct, even after an incident is reported.

School employee sexual misconduct is covered by Title IX of the educational amendments of 1972, the law most widely known for addressing gender equity in sports. However, the provisions of Title IX reach much further, prohibiting sexual discrimination and sexual harassment of any kind in educational institutions that receive federal funds. Title IX guidance, created by the Department of Education to support schools in implementing the law, requires that school districts have clear, written policies and procedures regarding school employee sexual misconduct; those policies and procedures, the guidance says, should include training to help staff, students, and parents recognize unacceptable behavior and other prevention measures, as well as processes to ensure a quick and effective response to complaints. Under the law, institutions that do not comply with these policy requirements—including K–­12 schools and school districts—can be liable for civil damages if school employees engage in sexual misconduct involving students.

The Magnolia Consulting study focused on implementation of the key elements of Title IX guidance in school districts that had experienced incidents of school employee sexual misconduct. Researchers found that, although school districts reported improvements to some policies and procedures, as well as improvements in awareness, communication, and district leadership, various challenges—including an incomplete understanding of the full requirements of Title IX and the associated guidance—continued to hamper districts’ efforts to comply with Title IX guidance. Representatives from all participating districts reported being unclear about what exactly Title IX requirements were and how they should be implemented. In addition, participants reported various challenges in implementing key elements of Title IX, including difficulty finding model policies, budget limitations, low parent engagement, fear of the consequences of reporting, and poor responses from criminal justice and child welfare agencies when incidents were reported.

According to Magnolia Consulting Senior Researcher Billie-Jo Grant, the principal investigator for the study, poor implementation of policy and prevention efforts may have negative consequences for both prevention and investigation of incidents, leading to long-term effects for victims. “The results of this study show us that more work needs to be done to guide and monitor the implementation of Title IX guidance and keep our students safe at school,” Grant says. “Title IX is only as effective as its implementation by school districts—staff, parents, and students are our eyes and ears for identifying and reporting these cases.”

The report concludes with several recommendations for addressing implementation challenges. School district leaders, researchers say, should review their district’s Title IX policies and implementation efforts, with support from federal and state departments of education, who need to develop model policies, establish accountability measures, and provide high-quality, low-cost training. Sexual misconduct training curricula should be included both in teacher training and in school employee orientation programs and training should be repeated periodically. Finally, policymakers and legislators need to issue parameters to guide education leaders in developing policies and advocate for evaluation, accountability, and funding for research. Researchers can analyze prevalence data to determine whether policies are working and contribute to prevention by analyzing the characteristics of both offenders and particularly vulnerable students.

Magnolia Consulting President Stephanie Wilkerson, who was the co-principal investigator for the study, said, “We see weekly headlines reporting cases of school employees sexually abusing students, and yet there is no national dialogue about what should be done to prevent it. This study emphasizes districts’ need for more effective communication, support, and accountability from federal and state leaders on implementing Title IX elements intended to help prevent school employee sexual misconduct. The protection of students from sexual predators in schools should be an issue we’re talking about; we hope this research study serves as a starting point for that conversation.”

“A Case Study of K–12 School Employee Sexual Misconduct: Lessons Learned from Title IX Policy Implementation” was executed as part of the National Institute of Justice Comprehensive School Safety Initiative, a federal program that awarded $69 million in grants to study the causes and consequences of school violence. Researchers collected data from 92 participants (41 interviews and 10 focus groups), as well as a review of documentation and policies, in five geographically and demographically diverse districts. All five districts experienced an incident of school employee sexual misconduct in 2014; the data were collected in 2016–2017.

The project was supported by Award No. 2015-CK-BX-0009, awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice.

For more information, resources, and to read the full report, please visit our Publications and Reporting page.

Questions? Contact Billie-Jo Grant, Ph.D., 805-550-9132 and bgrant@magnoliaconsulting.org

Reflections on Eclipse 2017

In January 2016, Magnolia Consulting began working with the National Solar Observatory to evaluate the NASA- and NSF-funded Citizen CATE Experiment, which prepared citizen scientists across the path of totality to capture images of the solar corona during the August 2017 solar eclipse. Beth, one of our evaluators, was on the ground with a Citizen CATE team on August 21 and wrote the following account of her experience.

 

The Citizen CATE project had teams placed along the path of totality from Oregon to South Carolina. Each team had one of the project’s 68 identical telescopes, which were equipped with cameras and software to take images of the sun during the eclipse. As part of our evaluation of the project, I was one of the thousands of people who descended on Madras, Oregon—one of the best viewing spots in the country—on August 21st.

The Citizen CATE team had set up in the parking lot of the Erickson Aircraft Collection, a museum of World War II aircraft. As the moon made first contact with the sun, the citizen scientists prepared to record their images. The preparations were vital because each Citizen CATE team had only one chance to record the eclipse. The nervous excitement of the Madras team was palpable in the moments leading up to totality.

After all the preparations, the moment came. A citizen scientist announced totality, and after a short cheer, the earth became eerily quiet and the sky turned brilliant purple and orange, resembling twilight at 10:20 in the morning. The recording began, and the citizen scientists reverently stood alongside the rest of the crowd as the earth felt a serene stillness. My observations halted at this point. The power of the phenomenon took precedence, and for those two minutes and two seconds, there was no evaluation, there were no scientists, there were no crowds of people, there was only the moon and the sun as they danced across the sky. Nature was the ultimate observation as time seemed to stand still.

As the sun began to emerge again, the stillness was broken. The citizen scientists went back into action, and the crowd resumed its cheers. Awoken from nature’s trance, I noticed so many things that had been going on around me. Skydivers were drifting closer to earth after having the best seats in the house. A couple was hugging after a very well-timed marriage proposal was made and accepted. And importantly, a camera had been silently recording the sun’s corona during totality.

The pressure was on at this point—had the citizen scientists succeeded? Had they captured the images? In the moments following totality, one citizen scientist said that he had observed the camera stopping, for no apparent reason, at 103 seconds instead of recording for the full 123 seconds. More nerve-racking still, the team struggled to find the data on their computer for a few intense moments. Once it was found, the team breathed a sigh of relief, completed the checklist to back up the data, and successfully uploaded the images.

While the team is still not sure why the camera stopped or whether researchers will feel that the cirrus clouds impacted the quality of the data, the images I was privy to were breathtaking and the experience was amazing. Now I’m ready for the 2024 eclipse!

Lights, Camera, Action: Using Video to Share Evaluation Findings (Part 2)

Part 2: Tips and Tricks for Creating a PowerPoint Video

Have you ever wanted to create an animated video but aren’t sure where to begin? One program to consider is PowerPoint. Believe it or not, PowerPoint is good for more than just slide shows— its many design capabilities make it a powerful choice for producing videos.

We used PowerPoint to create our video submission to the American Evaluation Association’s 2017 video contest. We learned a lot along the way, and now we’re sharing our tips and tricks to help you as you create your own video in PowerPoint. (This official resource provides a great overview of PowerPoint’s animation tab.)

Designing

  • Start simple. For beginners, abstract animations tend to look more professional than trying to create very realistic animations. It takes a lot of skill to create realistic animations, so play it safe and design animations that match your skill level.
  • Less can be more. Once you figure out all that PowerPoint animation can do, it’s easy to go overboard and make your video too busy. Make sure that each animation serves a purpose by telling the story, creating a transition, or adding emphasis.

Creating

  • Effect options. Each animation effect has its own options. You can change the direction of the effect, specify the color or size, or set text animations to occur by letter, word, or paragraph. When exploring the animation effects, also take a peek at “Effect Options” to see all the possibilities for the animation.
  • Copying animation. You can use the Animation Painter (similar to Format Painter) to easily copy the animations of one object onto another. Total time saver!
  • Start options. When starting an animation, you can select “Start On Click,” “Start With Previous,” or “Start After Previous.” We recommend using “Start With Previous” wherever appropriate because this allows you to tweak the durations and delays to make the animation occur at the right moment. When an animation starts before the previous animation has finished, the video appears smoother and more professional.
  • You don’t have to always rely on animations to make things happen. There are some cool transitions that can help your video. For example, the morph transition can save you a lot of time. Take a look through all of the transitions and keep them in mind. As with animations, use transitions only when they are helpful to the video; too many transitions can quickly look unprofessional.

Recording

  • PowerPoint is a one-stop shop. You can record your voiceover in PowerPoint and then export it as a video.
  • Tweaking the timing. Animations require constant tweaking of the timing. Don’t hesitate to revisit the timing of each animation and slow it down or speed it up to flow better and match the voice recording.

There are many reasons why a video might be a useful tool for your evaluation (see Part 1 of this series). We hope these tips and tricks are helpful as you begin to explore this feature of PowerPoint.

Lights, Camera, Action: Using Video to Share Evaluation Findings

Part 1: Why Create a Video?

As evaluators, we are always looking for compelling ways to share our work and connect with our audience. One way to effectively achieve this goal is through video. In Part 1 of this two-part series, we outline why you might consider creating videos to disseminate your work. In Part 2, we detail how to produce a short animated video using PowerPoint, including tips and takeaways from our own experience creating Magnolia Consulting’s submission for the American Evaluation Association’s 2017 video contest (check out our video below!).

Through this process, we learned about video’s potential for disseminating information and sharing findings. We have added this option to our dissemination toolbox, and we encourage you to do the same. Here are some reasons why:

  • Videos are more visually compelling and accessible than text. A short video will hold the viewer’s attention more easily than a dense, text-heavy report. Given that a video relies on visuals and audio to convey its message, this form of media will share your story and draw on viewers’ emotions in a more powerful way than text alone.
  • Videos are concise. You can convey key findings in a few minutes, making video a much more concise way to disseminate findings than a lengthy report.
  • Videos can be inexpensive and easy to create. In today’s world of accessible technology, including cell phones and a multitude of free editing software, it’s easier than ever to create a video as a beginner. We made our video in PowerPoint, which is a program that most evaluators have ready access to and already know how to use.
  • Videos can be disseminated to a wide audience. Videos can reach a wider audience via YouTube, social media, and other online platforms.

Are you ready to create your own video? In Part 2 of this series, we’ll show you tips and tricks for creating a video in PowerPoint.

Conducting Qualitative Research on Sensitive Topics: Challenges and Solutions

Research on sensitive subjects such as illegal activities, drug use, and sexual topics can pose some challenges for evaluators. These topics may result in unintended consequences, such as difficult emotions or potential legal ramifications for those involved. At Magnolia Consulting, we have conducted multiple qualitative studies on the highly sensitive topic of educator sexual misconduct, which is the abuse of students by school personnel. Based on our experience, we have identified three tasks that often present challenges during the research process: (a) recruitment, (b) sample selection, and (c) qualitative data collection through focus groups and interviews. Below, we outline these three challenges, along with solutions we employ.

Recruitment

  • Challenge: While recruitment can be challenging for any study, recruiting participants for a sensitive-topic study faces additional hurdles. The topic may trigger difficult or painful emotional responses from participants who have a personal connection to the subject, which may discourage participation. Additionally, participants may be afraid to discuss or disclose illegal behavior unless their confidentiality is ensured.
  • Solution: To encourage participation in the study, researchers may want to emphasize the value of others learning from the findings. Study participants should also be made aware of how the research findings will be used to advance knowledge in the field. Additionally, when first reaching out to potential participants, direct oral communication (via phone or in person) is key. Once potential participants have been identified, it is important for researchers to take proper steps to ensure confidentiality in the study to alleviate legal concerns of disclosing behaviors or knowledge.

Sample Selection

  • Challenge: Many sensitive-topic studies start with a limited number of known possible participants, which is further decreased by potential participants not meeting study sample parameters. In addition, a number of eligible participants may not wish to engage in the research study. This selection bias may mean that the results of the study are not generalizable.
  • Solution: If possible, researchers need to identify a very large initial set of potential participants. In order to minimize selection bias among eligible participants, researchers should work to remove barriers and increase incentives for participation. Again, ensuring confidentiality is essential.

Qualitative Data Collection

  • Challenge: Some participants in sensitive-topic studies may not feel comfortable being open with researchers. Hesitation to share perspectives can negatively impact the quality of the data collected.
  • Solution: Establishing rapport with study participants before data collection is an important step in gaining trust. One method of doing so is to hold an in-person orientation with key participants. This allows for face-to-face meeting time, presentation of background information, and questions from participants. Another option is to conduct a pilot of the protocols, which helps researchers adjust questions and make modifications to increase the comfort and openness of participants.

Despite the various barriers facing a researcher embarking on sensitive-topic research, it is possible to work through these challenges by using a solution-focused approach.

Giving Teachers a Voice: Five Common Themes from Teacher Focus Groups

Magnolia Consulting has been working with Hope Street Group State Teacher Fellows since 2015. As a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy organization, Hope Street Group supports State Teacher Fellowship programs in Arizona, Hawaii, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah. State Teacher Fellows lead these programs and collaborate to develop state-specific solutions to education challenges and to influence education policy. On an annual basis, Hope Street Group State Teacher Fellows collect survey and focus-group data from thousands of teachers in their respective states. We have partnered with Hope Street Group on these data collections, providing support in analyzing the data and developing recommendations based on the data collected.

Over the past two years, we have examined focus-group data from more than 16,000 teachers nationwide. In analyzing this data, we have noticed five common themes, irrespective of question topic:

  • Teachers want to be heard. Teachers want their voices and opinions to be valued and appreciate feeling empowered. They believe that their “on the ground” experiences in the classroom and in schools give them a unique, professional viewpoint that should be shared and considered when enacting state-level education policy and regulations.
  • Teachers request instructional and personal supports for their students. Teachers hear students’ voices, see students’ daily struggles, and serve as their greatest advocates. Teachers request resources to support all student needs. Specifically, they commonly request family support programs and resources, especially in social-emotional areas. Teachers also regularly request class size reductions to help them better address the instructional needs of every student.
  • Teachers want to be respected as professionals. Teachers want to be viewed as professionals with various supports and professional autonomy, such as additional planning and collaboration time; more high-quality, relevant professional development; and competitive compensation. Teachers also desire the chance to provide greater input and feedback on school-level decision-making, particularly around instructional programming, resources, and professional development opportunities.
  • Teachers desire a positive school culture. Teachers want a supportive, welcoming, and positive school culture. Schools with this type of culture provide a sense of community and create a safe learning environment for students and educators.
  • Teachers advocate for streamlined student testing. Teachers believe that student assessments should be decreased or streamlined, allowing educators more time to focus on instructional content and additional time for student learning and growth.

Magnolia continues to appreciate the opportunity to collaborate with Hope Street Group on meaningful work that aims to give teachers a voice at district and state levels. We remain hopeful that by sharing teachers’ voices with school district and state policymakers, Hope Street Group and its State Teacher Fellows will help cultivate more educator-led opportunities for knowledge sharing at the national level.

Tips for Qualitative Data Analysis Using a QDA Software Program

Qualitative analysis can sometimes seem daunting, particularly when dealing with large amounts of data. We have found qualitative data analysis (QDA) software to be immensely helpful with collaboration, coding, organization, and analysis. The software we use, ATLAS.ti, allows us to collaborate across platforms; co-develop, share, and organize codes; and analyze data through different techniques. Below are important points to consider when selecting and using any qualitative analysis tool:

  • Look at collaboration capabilities across platforms. When choosing QDA software, consider your organization’s collaboration needs. Do team members use a single platform, or is there a split between PC and Mac users? ATLAS.ti has recently expanded to allow for file sharing across platforms, which is particularly helpful when analyzing large data sets. Each team member can take and analyze a section of the data on a PC or Mac, and the analysis can later be merged into one master file on either platform.
  • Consider ways to create and share your codes. As part of the coding process, we use a shared Excel codebook with predetermined codes that can be revised as team members identify emergent codes. A shared codebook allows our team members to easily share, collaborate on, and organize our thematic codes. ATLAS.ti also has an internal codebook function that allows users to define predetermined and emergent codes; however, we have not found an effective way to make this codebook continually accessible to all team members.
  • Find ways to organize your codes. One of the strongest benefits of QDA software is the amount of organization it offers. Within ATLAS.ti, we can merge multiple thematic codes into one larger code, break apart codes, and organize codes through color coding and the creation of larger code groups. This is particularly helpful when the analysis process begins with “lumping” data to look for overarching themes and then moves into “splitting” the data in those themes to look for more detailed themes or smaller categories.
  • Understand that QDA software will not run an analysis for you. While QDA supports various analyses (e.g., content analysis, thematic analysis, analytic induction), it will not run an analysis for you. Unlike SPSS or SAS, you cannot select an analysis method and have the program run the analysis or provide an output of results. Qualitative analysis is still subject to the skills of the individual, but QDA software offers one tool for better collaboration, coding, and organization.

AEA Summer Institute: Introduction to Infographics

This month, we presented Introduction to Infographics at the American Evaluation Association’s 2017 Summer Institute in Atlanta, Georgia. As one of 35 professional development workshops geared toward evaluation professionals, this workshop focused on how to use infographics to communicate evaluation findings in an effective and engaging way. In our experience, lengthy written reports often go unread and unused. As an alternative, infographics can be a powerful visual tool to communicate evaluation findings in an easily accessible way. This workshop was an opportunity to share what we’ve learned about infographics along the way with other evaluators who are interested in using infographics to disseminate information.

As part of our workshop, participants were introduced to our Checklist for Reviewing Infographics as a tool for guiding the infographic design and review process. We demonstrated practical, easy-to-use resources and tools for creating an infographic, including an overview of software and websites, icon collections, and stock photo websites. Finally, our workshop participants went through our 10 Steps to Creating an Infographic and took a stab at creating their own infographic. We were impressed by our participants’ willingness to dive into the process, and many were on track to developing inspiring and creative infographics.

Based on the feedback we received, we know our workshop participants learned a lot, and so did we! Specifically, we are now working to integrate more resources for ensuring that infographics are accessible to those with visual disabilities. We also plan to translate our resources into Spanish in order to reach a wider audience. We hope that workshop participants will join our Magnolia Infographics LinkedIn community as a way to continue to share questions, ideas, and examples of infographics.

We are thrilled that we were able to share our knowledge with other evaluators, and we look forward to future collaboration about how infographics can be used in evaluation. Check out some photos of the Summer Institute workshop in action, and feel free to visit our Tools and Resources page for more information on the various tools mentioned here.

Get the Story Straight, and the Rest Will Follow: Developing infographics with a purpose

Too often, people begin developing infographics by playing with templates, images, and data visualizations. And who can blame them? It’s fun! But while this process will produce an infographic, it might not result in a story that connects with your audience. A better approach is to begin by making intentional decisions about your infographic: clearly defining your audience, purpose, and message constitutes three foundational and critical steps for developing an effective infographic.

Identify Your Audience (The Who). The first step of 10 Steps to Creating an Infographic focuses on identifying the information needs and interests of your intended audience. What information matters to them? How much do they understand about research and evaluation, and what might this mean for the tone and language you use? The local context in which your audience will access and use your infographic has implications for design elements you choose during later steps of infographic development, such as layout, size, and visualizations.

Clarify Purpose (The Why). The second step is about determining what you hope to accomplish through the infographic. Why are you creating it? What do you hope will change for your audience as a result of reading it? The purpose of an infographic can range from increasing awareness of a topic, issue, or research finding to improving program implementation or instructional practices based on study results. Think of purpose as the intended outcome of your infographic.

Create Story and Message (The What). The third step involves creating your main message, with primary points, secondary points, and supporting details. The story is what you share with your audience to achieve the infographic’s purpose. An effective story that conveys a compelling message includes an engaging title, an introduction with the foundational information the audience needs to grasp the main message, and a conclusion with a call to action that reinforces the purpose of your infographic. The story is intentional. It is not an afterthought or a by-product of populating a page with super cool images and data visualizations.

Getting the story straight by identifying your audience, clarifying your purpose, and creating an intentional main message will set the course for subsequent design decisions for your infographic. As you contemplate design elements, keep yourself in check by asking, “Does this support the main message and purpose of the infographic? Will this resonate with my audience?” Following this process will result in an infographic with greater coherence, clarity, and relevance for your audience.

Share your experiences with these three steps by joining our Magnolia Infographics LinkedIn community!

For more information about Magnolia Consulting’s infographic services, tools, and resources visit the Tools and Resources page!