Realist evaluation workshop, Canberra 11 and 12 October

Act quickly to grab a place in Gill Westhorp’s workshop on realist evaluation for the Australasian Evaluation Society.  Rare opportunity to learn about a highly relevant and practical approach from someone who is not only a skilled evaluation practitioner but a fabulous workshop leader.

I’ve had the opportunity to see Gill in action several times on projects and workshops and her explanations of realist ideas and practices are brilliant.

Here are the details from the AES:

More Details and Registration: of events

Members: $630 for two day workshop.

Non-members: $810 for two day workshop.

Instead of asking whether or not a program or intervention ‘works’, realist evaluation provides methods for determining ‘what works for whom in what contexts, and how’. This type of theory-based evaluation is particularly important if interventions are being considered for replication or scaling up, when new interventions are being developed that are not well understood, or for dealing with complexity.


This practical and applied program will:

  • introduce the concepts that underpin realist approaches;
  • explain the particular meanings, and provide examples of, the three key ideas in realist evaluation – context, mechanism and outcome;
  • explore techniques for realist evaluation design, including developing realist questions, selecting appropriate data collection methods, and the analytic approach;
  • demonstrate methods for realist qualitative analysis;
  • provide practical examples for each aspect of the program;
  • provide opportunities for participants to practice applying the ideas to their own policies or programs.

Outcomes and Benefits

Participants will receive the following outcomes and benefits by attending this two-day Realist Evaluation workshop:

  • Understand where realist evaluation ‘fits’ and how it differs from other evaluation approaches (including other theory based approaches)
  • Develop practical skills in realist evaluation
  • Understand how to move from descriptive evaluation to explanatory evaluation
  • Share experiences and learning with peers


Dr Gill Westhorp is a consultant specialising in realist evaluation and realist synthesis methodologies. Much of her work is undertaken in the community services, health, education and international development sectors. Gill regularly provides professional development in evaluation and realist methods in Australia and overseas (New Zealand, England, Scotland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, the Czech Republic, Vietnam, Canada, and America). She is one of the most experienced practitioners in realist synthesis in the world, and is a member of the core research team developing quality and publication standards for realist synthesis. She regularly consults to other researchers and evaluators in developing and undertaking realist designs. She was the inaugural convenor of the Realist Evaluation and Realist Synthesis Special Interest Group for the AES.

Target Audience

Evaluation practitioners and commissioners in Government, NGOs, consultants, and academics will benefit from this program. All participants are expected to have at least a working knowledge of evaluation (commissioning, designing and/or conducting). No experience in realist evaluation is necessary. Those with some background in realist approaches will be assisted to work at a more advanced level. This will be an applied program and all participants are requested to ‘bring a program’ (or policy, initiative, strategy) to work on.

More information and Registration

1 comment to Realist evaluation workshop, Canberra 11 and 12 October

  • _Realistic Approach to Evaluation without the need to adopt a Realist Philosophy of Science_

    The term “realist evaluation” had its origins in the originators’ understanding of a “realist philosophy of science”.

    Since 1975, I have supported and taught many aspects of this approach to evaluation, although I never considered linking the approach to a “realist philosophy of science”. Rather, I teach this as extremely “realistic” (ie, useful) approach, rather than as a “realist” approach.

    Others who, like me, find value in teaching and using this “realistic” approach to evaluation need not be limited by assumptions that are associated with a “realist philosophy of science”. This “realistic” approach seems to work well alongside other philosophies of science, including the “instrumentalist philosophy of science” that I learned many decades ago at MIT.

    Aside: Sorry about the names of these philosophies of science which have relevance, but can also lead to misunderstandings about how each approach interprets knowledge and its application.

    Jerry Winston