Quotes: food for thought on evalaution
Purposes of evaluation
evaluation of public policies, programs, and practices seems to be
an intrinsic part of democratic
for four reasons. It reports information about government performance
that the public needs to know. It adds new data to the existing stock
of knowledge required for government action. It develops and analytical
capability within agencies that moves them away from territoriality
and toward a culture of learning. And, more generally, its
spirit of skepticism
and willingness to embrace dissent help keep the government honest."
Evaluation in modern society
society is defined by its attempt to replace tradition and prejudice
by a belief in
and progress...Evaluation emerges at a historical point in time when
modern society becomes reflective, as it acknowledges that not all
of its attempts to shape its own future are automatically successful,
some have side effects."
Intellectual contexts of evalaution
is a human enterprise, and in an important sense the intellectual
contexts from which evaluation
has emerged are embodied in individual theorist-practitioners. Thus,
early figures in the field brought that own intellectual traditions with
them as they engaged in research, writing, and teaching that constructed
evaluation as a field."
in its simplest terms is concerned with the nature of knowledge.
evaluators ask themselves “How
do I know?” or “How certain am I about what has happened
here?” or “Under what conditions might others find my findings
inadequate?” they are asking epistemological questions about the
attributes, scope, and sources of their knowledge. They are examining
the manner in which they have gathered information, constructed and manipulated
concepts, and used their thoughts, memories, sense, and emotions to analyse
and justify what they are presenting as “knowledge about.” Evaluation
like social science research is now rooted in a growing diversity of
Evidence based practice
to the evidence-based agenda, the prevailing view is that randomized
experiments are required in
order to generate an adequate body of scientific knowledge to inform
and practice. However, as argued above, this ‘gold standard’ does
not necessarily provide an adequate basis for professional practice
in all contexts."
Evidence based policy
does ‘evidence’ speak to ‘power’?
What do you get if you cross ‘research’ with ‘realpolitic’?
Where lies the ground between the ‘ivory tower’ and ‘corridors
of power’? What hope is there for nuptials between ‘knowing’ and ‘doing’?
The anser to all these questions has coalesced in a new millennium big idea
called evidence-based policy, and, in the pages to follow, I am going to attempt
assess the state of the union between the realms of evidence and policy."
Cause and effect: the causation issue
No discussion of evaluation
nuts and bolts is complete without some mention of the causation issue.
Although this is a relatively simple
concept to grasp in everyday life, causation is one of the most difficult
and one of the most important issues in evaluation. Even if we observe
changes that are consistent with the expectations or goals of a program
or other evaluand, we cannot refer to these as “impacts” or “outcomes” unless
we can demonstrate that the evaluand [program] was at least a primary
cause of those changes....Although the causation issue is incredibly
important, demonstrating causal links can seem like an impossible task,
especially for evaluators with limited time and resources...Here is the
good news: There is some practical light at the end of the causation
tunnel, and the tunnel is not nearly as long and treacherous as legend
I say “I know for certain that I am standing
up; it is absolutely certain that I am; there is not the smallest chance
that I am not.” Many philosophers would say: “You are wrong:
you do not know that you are standing up; it is not absolutely certain
that you are; there is some chance, though perhaps only a very small
one, that you are not.”'
Politics and evaluation
and evaluation are related in a number of ways. On is that evaluations,
if they are used at all, become
part of a political decision process surrounding the program being evaluated.
Evaluations consequently become participants in the political arena along
with other political actors. A second way that politics and evaluation
are related is that evaluations, by taking a position about how well
a program is doing, are inherently and unavoidably political."
Truth in evaluation
of the major points of departure among evaluators as they approach
their work is grounded in how they view the
notion of “truth” in evaluation. I take a fairly practical
position on this that goes roughly as follows. Evaluation findings are “demonstrably
true” when a solid mix of evidence supports a conclusion at or
above the level of certainty required in that decision-making context.
Does that mean that I think something has been “proven’ to
be a 100% level of certainty so that it can be called an absolute truth
in the strictest sense of the word? Certainly not."
focus in utilization-focused evaluation is on intended use by intended
users. Since no evaluation
can be value-free, utilization-focused evaluation answers the question
of whose values will frame the evaluation by working with clearly identified,
primary intended users who have the responsibility to apply evaluation
findings and implement recommendations. Utilization-focused evaluation
is highly person and situational. The evaluation facilitator develops
a working relationship with intended users to help them determine what
kind of evaluation they need...Utilization evaluation does not advocate
any particular evaluation content, model or method...."
Scriven - The Science of Valuing
evaluators acknowledge that evaluation assigns merit or worth,
but they rarely discuss values more
deeply. Scriven is the most forceful and persistent advocate of this
position. He wants evaluation to be the science of valuing: “Bad
is bad and good is good and it is the job of evaluators to decide which
is which”. He criticizes other evaluators for “defining evaluation,
as for example, the provision of information to decision-makers. Evaluation
is what it is, the determination of merit or worth, and what is it is
used for is another matter.”"
Early Weiss on evaluation
summarised her initial theory in two highly influential books. She
started with the premised that “the
purpose of evaluation research is to measure the effects of a program
against the goals it set out to accomplish as a means of contributing
to subsequent decision making about the program and improving future
programming.” Her early theory stressed experimental methodology
to assessment program goal achievement, since “systematic evidence
on the effects of each project would show which programs worked well
and should be expanded , which ones were failures and needed to be
abandoned and which were marginal and needed to be modified"”
Later Weiss: Improving social programs
view of all these difficulties, Weiss concluded that the traditional
view of “evaluation itself
is problematic...Its decline is not the worst of the alternative futures
we can imagine”. She began to consider alternatives to this view:
For the social scientist who wants to contribute to the improvement
of social programming, there may be more effective routes at this point
than through evaluation research. There may be greater potential in
research on the processes that give rise to social problems, the institutional
structures that contribute to their origin and persistence, the social
arrangements that overwhelm efforts to eradicate them, and the points
at which they are vulnerable to societal intervention."