Hi Gender and Eval Community!
Over on my blog, free-range evaluation, I recently shared some thoughts on how my colleagues and I have been working to support and promote "evaluative thinking," especially among "non-evaluators" (i.e., program implementers who don't see themselves as evaluators, or who maybe even dislike evaluation).
Here, I share some of those thoughts, in the hope of learning from you all what you do to foster evaluative thinking with the people with whom you interact.
I was inspired by a recent post on the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog that mentioned the importance of evaluative thinking. The post, “How Evaluation Can Strengthen Communities,” is by Kien Lee and David Chavis, principal associates with Community Science.
They describe how—in their organization’s efforts to build healthy, just, and equitable communities—supporting evaluative thinking can provide “the opportunity for establishing shared understanding, developing relationships, transforming disagreements and conflicts, engaging in mutual learning, and working together toward a common goal—all ingredients for creating a sense of community.” Along with Jane Buckley and Guy Sharrock, in our work to promote evaluative thinking in Catholic Relief Services and other community development organizations, we have definitely seen this happen as well.
But how does one support evaluative thinking? On aea365 and in an earlier post here, we share some guiding principles we have developed for promoting evaluative thinking. Below, I briefly introduce a few practices and activities we have found to be successful in supporting evaluative thinking (ET). Before I do that, though, I must first give thanks and credit to both the Cornell Office of Research on Evaluation, whose Systems Evaluation Protocol guides the approach to articulating theories of change which has been instrumental in our ET work, and to Stephen Brookfield, whose work on critical reflection and teaching for critical thinking has opened up new worlds of ET potential for us and the organizations with which we work! Now, on to the practices and activities:
What other techniques and practices have you used to promote and support evaluative thinking?
A theory of change 'pathway model' from CRS Zambia, helping practitioners to identify and critically reflect on assumptions.
Note: The ideas above are presented in greater detail in a recent article in the American Journal of Evaluation:
Buckley, J., Archibald, T., Hargraves, M., & Trochim, W. M. (2015). Defining and teaching evaluative thinking: Insights from research o.... American Journal of Evaluation. Advance online publication. doi:10.1177/1098214015581706
Brookfield, S. (2012). Teaching for critical thinking: Tools and techniques to help students question their assumptions. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
De Bono, E. (1999). Six thinking hats. London: Penguin.
Shadish, W., Cook, T., & Campbell, D. (2002). Experimental and quasi-experimental designs for generalized causal inference. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Trochim, W., Urban, J. B., Hargraves, M., Hebbard, C., Buckley, J., Archibald, T., Johnson, M., & Burgermaster, M. (2012). The Guide to the Systems Evaluation Protocol (V2.2). Ithaca NY. Retrieved from https://core.human.cornell.edu/research/systems/protocol/index.cfm.
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