Evaluation in Service of the Public Good

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1 Evaluation in Service of the Public Good DeGEval, Gesellschaft fuer Evaluation Muenster, Germany 8 October 2009 Jennifer C. Greene University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

2 Walking down the street

3 At a downtown café

4 At the local Even Start Office The Even Start Family Literacy Program addresses the basic educational needs of parents and children up to age eight from lowincome families by providing a unified program of (1) adult basic or secondary education and literacy programs for parents, (2) assistance for parents to effectively promote their children's educational development, and (3) early childhood education for children. Projects provide some services directly, and build on existing community resources by collaborating with other service providers.

5 Interlude How should evaluation be present in these contexts? Where should evaluation be located in service of the public good? Elaborate vision Three key responsibilities

6 In service of the public good Common commitment to doing good But different views about how to enact this commitment Differences rooted in: The political position of evaluation in society The relational position of the evaluator within the inquiry Vision is one of evaluation conducted for the public good.

7 The public good as the quality of public reason and the inclusiveness of public discourse Evaluation in service of the public good involves: Engagement with important public issues Enlightenment about these issues Inclusion of diverse perspectives therein

8 Responsibilities of evaluators working in service of the public good Responsibilities as citizens Responsibilities as educators Responsibilities as agents of democracy

9 Our citizenship responsibilities The challenge is to reclaim evaluation s potential and responsibility to be an active player in important deliberations about important public issues, and to practice evaluation as a public craft with civic responsibilities and commitments.

10 Citizenship (continued) Traditionally, evaluation has been located on the sidelines of public decision making But, our scientific traditions have been challenged And evaluation is at root about valuing Knowledge claims = value claims So, there are no viable sidelines for evaluation (House) Evaluators need to be part of the civic order, not on the sidelines

11 Citizenship in practice Evaluator could emphasize: Program s fulfillment of objectives for funders and policy makers Quality of services provided for program developers, managers, and staff Responsiveness of program to participant needs for participants and their families

12 Citizenship in practice (continued) Evaluator-as-citizen should emphasize: Proactive engagement with civic and moral issues at hand in this context Not personal value stances, but rather as engagement with socio-economic-political issues of importance to the broader public good

13 Our responsibilities as educators The challenge is to rescue evaluation from the narrowness of current accountability systems and to reclaim evaluation s grander potential for generating meaningful knowledge and useful insights.

14 We can do better than this Accountability questions PLUS attention to program complexity and context Accountability systems that offer meaningful learning Accountability systems that assess both program outcomes and program processes Accountability systems that are respectful, generative, and fundamentally educative

15 The evaluator as educator Lee Cronbach 95 theses: The evaluator is an educator, his [or her] success is to be judged by what others learn. Program evaluation is a process by which society learns about itself. Program evaluation should contribute to enlightened discussion of alternative plans for social action.

16 Evaluation as education in practice Primary emphasis on understanding program quality and promise in context May use lens of program theory Seeks to inform important public conversations about important public issues Works in service to a better understanding of critical social issues and how best to address them.

17 Our democratic responsibilities The challenge is to reclaim evaluation from the wastelands of value neutrality and to recommit our work to engaging with the vital international challenges of diversity.

18 Democratic responsibilities (continu d) Attending to historical and cultural dimensions of diversity in context Meanings of program experiences are embedded in and constituted by context Definitions of program goodness are contextualized so the program gets judged by how well it responds to people rather than asking how well people succeed in the program

19 Democratic evaluation in practice Wondering if literacy is the family s most pressing need Attending seriously to the poverty of Sally Jo and her family Not assuming illiteracy in the family Worrying about the visibly sick children, and about James Looking for gifts and talents in the family

20 How far dare an evaluator go toward saving the world? (Bob Stake, 2004) Evaluators do advocate for: Evaluation Rationality Utilization We care to be heard. Social betterment We are distressed by under-privilege.

21 Bob Stake and advocacy (continued) Even if we try to control our advocacies, much will differ from evaluator to evaluator. So, we need to develop our standards and principles so that they deal better with the uncertainty and individuality of evaluating. But, we should also encourage evaluators to have a life and to have a dream.

22 Evaluation dreams Inevitably advocacies in evaluation Of our selves in our work Of our work in the world Locating our work in service of the public good Civic responsibilities Educative responsibilities Democratic responsibilities

23 Thank you

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