3/11/20141Evaluation Theory: Who Needs It?Jean A. KingAn important questionIf evaluation is a field of practice, then what is an appropriate role for theoryin 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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3/11/20142The final word. . .In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is. -Yogi Berra The problem for evaluatorsAn ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.-Ralph Waldo EmersonA 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 existsWhy theorydoesn’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?
3/11/20143Shadish (1998)“Evaluation Theory Is Who We Are”Shadish argued that what we sayabout 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 evaluatorsCurrent 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 theory1.Lack of conceptual consensus2.The relatively recent emergence of the field3.Lack of financial support for theory development in evaluation4.A focus on program theory5.The field’s practical focus6.A continuing concern with evaluation models and methods-King and Stevahn (2013)