According to the World English Dictionary to evaluate means: “(1) to ascertain or set the amount or value of; and, (2) to judge or assess the worth of; appraise” (evaluation, n.d., p. 1). The definition is straight forward and ad rem. However, in our society evaluation has an almost pejorative connotation. Perhaps this is why our Mark stated in 2007, “evaluation won’t always be called evaluation, but its influence will be felt through creating a culture of learning and using information and data to make decisions (as cited in Fitzpatrick, Sanders, & Worthen, 2011, p. 494). The synonym “assessment” has risen in the ranks to help smooth the stakeholder waters. However, stakeholders have not been fooled. Whether informed of an impending program evaluation or being required to develop an assessment of current program offerings, fear inevitably finds its way into the stakeholders’ consciousness. No matter how reassuring the powers that be are, reminding us that assessments/evaluations are useful formative tools to improve our programs, enhance our organizations and make lives better, in most heart of hearts there is the belief that if the program is NOT 100% perfect, it is their butt on the line.
I do not think this has significantly changed since 2001 when the predictive articles regarding evaluation were originally written, as evidenced by Worthen’s almost verbatim recounting of the same predictions in 2011 for the future that he prognosticated in his paper in 2001 (Smith, 2001; Worthen, 2001; Fitzpatrick, et al., 2011). Fortunately, much like professional fortune teller’s Worthen’s predictions were and are flexible and broad enough to have some merit of truth in them.
Our text lists nine predictions concerning the profession of evaluation:
1. “Evaluation will become an increasingly useful force in our society
2. Evaluation will increase in the United States and in other developed countries.
3. Evaluation will continue to spread rapidly around the globe.
4. The opportunity for careers in evaluation will continue to increase.
5. Graduate programs in evaluation will increase with the growing demand.
6. Many of those conducting evaluations will need more specific evaluation training.
7. Internal evaluation will, despite its risks, become more important because of its benefits.
8. Professional associations will continue to grow and to branch into new areas to expand the public presence of evaluation.
9. Evaluation literature will increase in both quantity and quality, but relatively little of it will be based on research into the process of evaluation itself” (Fitzpatrick, et al., 2011, p. 492-493).
In addition, nine predictions were made concerning the practice of evaluation:
1. “Approaches to evaluation will become more eclectic and adaptive to contextual circumstances.
2. Evaluation will be mainstreamed in organizations.
3. Evaluation will expand to evaluate programs in new areas.
4. Evaluators will become more aware of and involved in the work of planners, policy analysts, and organizational developers.
5. Evaluation (and evaluators) will become more politically sophisticated.
6. Attention to ethical issues will increase.
7. Electronic and other technological advances will alter the way evaluators collect information, draw conclusions, and report findings, enabling broader stakeholder participation and access to evaluation reports and their findings.
8. Efforts will increase to democratize evaluation.
9. The performance measurement movement will grow” (Fitzpatrick, et al., 495-496).
I have to concur wholeheartedly with these predictions. One of the reasons for the likelihood of these predictions coming true is the strident call for performance evaluations and ever increasing accountability (Smith, 2001; Fitzpatrick, et al., 2011). My cynicism may have the best of me, but the reality is that the reasoning behind many of these predictions is the bottom financial line. Money. Fetterman stated “truth and honesty will continue to guide the profession and practice. It will not be a naïve conception of one absolute truth, but a sincere intent to understand an event in context and from multiple worldviews. That aim will be to understand, to improve, and create a better life through evaluation. Hired guns (individuals improperly hired to deliver preconceived evaluation results desired by management) and public relations artists will exist; however, they will continue to be the exception to the rule in the field” (Fetterman, 2001, p. 381).
What do I think?
I believe that those truly dedicated to the profession will honor it appropriately, ethically and respectably. I also believe the reason for increase efforts for democratizing evaluation, attention to ethical issues and necessity of developing political sophistication are required for the profession to continue being honest and truthful. I believe there is a LOT of pressure facing the professional evaluator. Until this course, I had not realized there was such a profession, nor had I realized just how humanitarian it is. Unfortunately, much like the professional project manager, the professional evaluator is expected to be a little bit amazing. Of course, after this program we are all a little bit amazing now aren’t we? (wink)
More specifically and academically, Smith summarized many skills needed by a professional evaluators including:
• “Strategies for coping with the information revolution (Love); that is, assisting governments with electronic delivery of information and services; learning to use new technologies for real-time data collection and analysis; and moving beyond simply collecting and storing data to performing analyses and making reports accessible and useful for intelligent and timely decisions;
• Strategies for engaging, coping with, and capitalizing on the political side of evaluation (Stake);
• Skills for promoting organizational learning, for example, collaboration and facilitation, interpersonal communication, team development, group process, consulting, organizational behavior and change (Torres & Preskill);
• Interpersonal and group dynamic skills for working in collaborative relationships, partnering with stakeholders and serving as coach, facilitator, and critical friend;
• Cultural sensitivity, mediating, negotiating, and conflict resolution (Datta); a few evaluators will serve as technical experts (Fetterman); and
• Skills for providing training for organization members in such areas as strategic planning and development of goals (Wholey), though Worthen predicts that evaluators will fail to embrace such areas and then face the consequence of competition from other professions that will satisfy these needs” (Smith, 2001, p. 284).
Like I said, a little bit of amazing! What does everyone else think?
Fetterman, D. (2001). The transformation of evaluation into collaboration: A vision of evaluation in the 21st century. American Journal of Evaluation, 22(3), 381-384. Retrieved from EBSCOhost
Smith, M. (2001). Evaluation: Preview of the future #2. American Journal of Evaluation, 22(3), 281-300. Retrieved from EBSCOhost
Stufflebeam, D. (2001). The metaevaluation imperative. American Journal of Evaluation, 22(2), 183-209. Retrieved from EBSCOhost
Worthen, B. (2001). Whither evaluation? That all depends. American Journal of Evaluation, 22(3), 409-416. Retrieved from EBSCOhost