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rlf1 - Lecture One An Overview of Program Evaluation...

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Lecture One: An Overview of Program Evaluation Reading RLF, Chapter 1. In Chapter 1, RLF (i.e., Rossi, Lipsey, and Freeman) provide an introduction to the field of program evaluation. The major sections or topics are What is Program Evaluation? A Brief History of Evaluation. The Defining Characteristics of Program Evaluation. Evaluation Research in Practice. Who Can Do Evaluations? Because you can obviously read the textbook, I will only make a few comments about each of the sections in this chapter without repeating everything that they say. Note, by the way, that I have high regard for Peter Rossi, the late Howard Freeman, and Mark Lipsey. What is Program Evaluation? Here is basically there first take at defining program evaluation... Program evaluation is the use of social research procedures to systematically investigate the effectiveness of social intervention programs . According to RLF, evaluation researchers (i.e., evaluators) use social research methods to study, appraise, and help improve social programs in all their important aspects, including the diagnosis of the social problems they address, their conceptualization and design, their implementation and administration, their outcomes, and their efficiency. I have a couple of comments about RLF’s definition and way of thinking. First, RLF use the following terms interchangeably (i.e., they are synonyms): evaluation research, program evaluation, and, most simply, evaluation. Some people (and subgroups) in evaluation dislike the term “evaluation research” (in particular, they dislike including the word research) because they want to emphasize that evaluation is about valuing, that valuing is done on specific programs, and that the primary emphasis of evaluator is not on conducting “scientific research” (i.e., the generating
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generalizable knowledge). The primary emphasis of an evaluator is typically to provide information that can be used in making decisions about a particular program. By the way, I (Burke Johnson) do not have any problem with the term “evaluation research.” That is, I have no problem with viewing evaluation as a special kind of applied research. Keep in mind, however, that some other faculty members may want to make a distinction between evaluation and research . Second, the focus of RLF is on social intervention programs, but the concepts and ideas apply other forms of evaluation as well. Most of the examples used in this book will be local, state, or federal programs (including many educational programs). They will place little emphasis on evaluating consumer products or personnel. Before moving on, I am including one more definition of program evaluation from a good book on evaluation that you may want to read sometime (from Evaluation by Mark, Henry, & Julnes, 2000, Jossey-Bass).
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