Toward an Agenda for Research on
Gary T.Henry, Melvin M.Mark
Using Christie’s research as an example, the authors
describe a variety of forms that a more evidence-based
approach to evaluation theory could take and offer some
suggestions to help increase the amount and impact of
evidence in evaluation theory.
Evaluation seems to be almost everywhere these days. We read about the findings of large-scale program evaluations in the newspaper, we receive report cards on our neighborhood schools, we allow ourselves to be interviewed for evaluations of conferences we attend. Yet we know remarkably little about how evaluation is being practiced, why it is being practiced, by whom and where it is being practiced, and to what effect. As evaluators, we know a great deal about the evaluations that we conduct, and we may also know a fair amount about those evaluations that we come into contact with professionally, as citizens, or as participants. However, the big picture is less clear. Evaluators are unlikely to be able to say much descriptively about the size, scope, and shape of the evaluation enterprise—things like how many evaluations were completed last year, how much money was spent on evaluation, who did the evaluations, and how they were conducted. More troubling, if evaluators try to tell you anything deeper about the practice of evaluation, what they tell you almost certainly comes from their personal experience, interactions, reading, training, or intuition. The views you hear on the key issues in evaluation—such as what kind of evaluation to do in various circumstances, or when and why evaluation affects important actions—almost certainly are not based on rigorous, systematic evidence. Why not? Because there is a serious shortage of rigorous, systematic evidence that can guide evaluation or that evaluators can use for self-reflection or for improving their next evaluation.
This volume focuses on one new and noteworthy source of systematic evidence about evaluation: in Chapter One, Christina Christie presents her analysis of, first, the similarities or dissimilarities among the views of eight