Evaluation Theories/Why Evaluation Theory is Who We Are

William Shadish, as president of the AEA wrote in 1998 that evaluation theory “provides the language that we use to talk to each other about evaluation.” (Shadish, __p. 3)

However, he went on to point out the problems that he saw with evaluation theory, and they are deep:

  1. No Widely-Accepted Method of Classifying Evaluation Theories (aka: “The lack of a widely-accepted metatheoretical nomenclature”, p. 8)
  2. No Way of Comparing Evaluation Theories (aka: “The neglect of a comparative theory of evaluation”, p. 8)
  3. "No "If-Then" Framework (aka: “The general failure of most theorists to develop contingent theories of evaluation”, p. 8)
  4. No Consensual Vision of Evaluation’s Place in Society (aka, “The general omission of a consensual vision of the place of evaluation in the world today.”, p. 8)

In his book

Types of Evaluation Theories: (Scriven) ‘Local Theories “Theories about evaluation in a particular field” e.g. “discrepancy model” theory of Program Evaluation ‘General Theories’ “evaluation in general (e.g., ...” “political role” “logical nature” “logic of evaluative discourse” “nature of evaluation” “how evaluations can be justified” = “axiology” “metamethodology” “sociopolitical theories of its [evaluation’s] role in particular types of environments.” J: What are the possible types of environments? ‘Models’ “are often simply... Metaphors for, evaluation Conceptualizations of, evaluation Procedural paradigms for evaluation. (Shadish, 1998, p. 2) ‘Topics’ - See figure 1 (Shadish, __p. 2) Evaluation Practice (Center) Valuing “Knowledge construction” (Shadish, __p. 3) “knowledge use” (Shadish, __p. 3) “nature of the evaluand” (Shadish, __p. 3)

“parts of evaluation theory are empirically based, but .... much more of it is hypothetical, conjectural, and unproven,” (Shaddish, 1998, p. 2)

Shaddish (1998), ‘Evaluation Theory is Who We are’