King-Theory.pdf - Evaluation Theory Who Needs It Jean A...

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3/11/2014 1 Evaluation Theory: Who Needs It? Jean A. King An important question If evaluation is a field of practice, then what is an appropriate role for theory in evaluation? Theory? Practice? “. . . there is nothing so practical as good theory .” -Kurt Lewin (1951) “. . . there is nothing so theoretical as good practice .” -Michael Fullan (2001)
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3/11/2014 2 The final word. . . In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is . -Yogi Berra The problem for evaluators An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory. -Ralph Waldo Emerson A dilemma. . . Why you should care Fields that have theory can conduct research and advance purposefully Having meaningful theory might help us become a profession sooner It is good to know the theory that exists Why theory doesn’t matter Evaluation theory is not in great shape when compared to other fields Many practitioners know nothing about evaluation theory and they practice evaluation just fine, right?
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3/11/2014 3 Shadish (1998) “Evaluation Theory Is Who We Are” Shadish argued that what we say about what we do (our theory) is just as important as--and deeply informs-- what we do (our practice) and who we are (our profession) as evaluators Current status of evaluation theory Since its inception, evaluation has struggled to generate viable theory As Berk and Rossi (1999) put it: “ So far. . . theory has not lived up to its promise in evaluation research” (p. 33) Reasons for NOT focusing on theory 1. Lack of conceptual consensus 2. The relatively recent emergence of the field 3. Lack of financial support for theory development in evaluation 4. A focus on program theory 5. The field’s practical focus 6. A continuing concern with evaluation models and methods -King and Stevahn (2013)
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