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07/19/2012 - 07/21/2012
The Evaluators' Institute at George Washington University
Instructor: Dr. Melvin M. Mark, Professor of Psychology at the Pennsylvania State University
Description: Evaluators who are not aware of the contemporary and historical aspects of the profession. "are doomed to repeat past mistakes and, equally debilitating, will fail to sustain and build on past successes." Madaus, Scriven and Stufflebeam (1983).
"Evaluation theories are like military strategy and tactics; methods are like military weapons and logistics. The good commander needs to know strategy and tactics to deploy weapons properly or to organize logistics in different situations. The good evaluator needs theories for the same reasons in choosing and deploying methods." Shadish, Cook and Leviton (1991).
These quotes from Madaus et al. (1983) and Shadish et al. (1991) provide the perfect rationale for why the serious evaluator should be concerned with models and theories of evaluation. The primary purpose of this class is to overview major streams of evaluation theories (or models), and to consider their implications for practice. Topics include: (1) why evaluation theories matter, (2) frameworks for classifying different theories, (3) in-depth examination of 4-6 major theories, (4) identification of key issues on which evaluation theories and models differ, (5) benefits and risks of relying heavily on any one theory, and (6) tools and skills that can help you in picking and choosing from different theoretical perspectives in planning an evaluation in a specific context. The overarching theme will be on practice implications, that is, on what difference it would make for practice to follow one theory or some other.
Theories to be discussed will be ones that have had a significant impact on the evaluation field, that offer perspectives with major implications for practice, and that represent important and different streams of theory and practice. Case examples from the past will be used to illustrate key aspects of each theory's approach to practice.
Participants will be asked to use the theories to question their own and others' practices, and to consider what characteristics of evaluations will help increase their potential for use. Each participant will receive Marvin Alkin's text, Evaluation Roots (Sage, 2004) and other materials.
The instructor's assumption will be that most people attending the session have some general familiarity with the work of a few evaluation theorists, but that most will not themselves be scholars of evaluation theory. At the same time, the course should be useful, whatever one's level of familiarity with evaluation theory.