How to kill a discipline: Worship the theorists, diss the implementors & the evaluators!

Michael Scriven

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A blast from the past that has not lost its relevance, and that comes back to me again and again.

I did love Michael Scriven’s analysis in his 2013 keynote to the Australasian Evaluation Society in Brisbane, where he remarked that the academic theorists are always considered the high priests of any discipline; the

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What is evaluation? Getting clarity about who we are as a profession, and a discipline

scriven

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Getting the definition of evaluation right is not simply a matter of having a popularity vote about it.

The fact that so many don’t see a clear difference between evaluation and other pursuits (such as research, monitoring, audit, organization development, management consulting) doesn’t mean that there isn’t one.

I just couldn’t resist commenting on

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Rethinking “who’s worth listening to” – and how we listen to each other – in evaluation

In the previous discussion about evaluation’s intellectual silos, Jara Dean-Coffey suggested that there were generational differences within the U.S. evaluation community with respect to the “specialist culture” that has dominated the evaluation scene to date, and wondered whether this might also be true elsewhere. Jara’s reflections reminded me of something else I have observed and puzzled over: Are there forces working against the recognition of the newer, silo-spanning generation of evaluators? Are those forces counterproductive for advancing the discipline? What’s the cultural lens on all this? And what are the lessons here for rethinking who we listen to in the evaluation community and how we listen?

Read the whole post –> Rethinking “who’s worth listening to” – and how we listen to each other – in evaluation

Rethinking evaluation’s intellectual silos

Michael Scriven has had us working our gray matter harder than usual this week trying to come up with a new ‘Copernican’ revolution for evaluation. The ensuing discussion has covered, among other things, the point that certain [‘Northern’ and especially ‘North American’] views of the world (and their accompanying assumptions, methodologies) have, historically, been treated as ‘the default’. Let’s try for a very southern hemisphere-flavored candidate for rethinking evaluation globally – the realization that the various different evaluation theories, approaches, models, and methodologies are not in fact ideologies to which one swears lifelong allegiance. Rather, some of the best genuine evaluations are the ones that ‘sample across the silos’ and combine approaches that were heretofore thought to be incompatible

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Rethinking evaluation: Explicitly evaluative and culturally inclusive approaches

I’m not sure I can come up with a ‘Copernican’ revolution of the scale Michael Scriven described in his previous post, but perhaps I can run an idea up the flagpole that has came as a realization or light-bulb moment for me and still seems to surprise and sometimes amaze other people I talk to and work with … There is a long-held belief that evaluations that draw explicitly evaluative conclusions are somehow diametrically opposed to or completely incompatible with culturally responsive evaluations that fully reflect and respect the cultural values and worldviews of indigenous peoples and others whose voices are often not heard.

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