NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ847869
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 5
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 25
ISSN: ISSN-1098-2140
The Fifth Guiding Principle: Beacon, Banality, or Pandora's Box?
Morris, Michael
American Journal of Evaluation, v30 n2 p220-224 2009
Successfully providing guidance to others is no easy task. Such is the challenge faced by committees charged with developing guidelines for ethical professional practice. The process of establishing and revising the Program Evaluation Standards (Joint Committee, 1994), for example, is a multiyear task that must seems endless to participants: a draft generated by a task force is followed by an extensive external review leading to a revised draft that is used in field trials and reviewed in national hearings. This is followed by yet another draft publicly posted for critique and comment prior to a Validation Panel's report that precedes a vote of The Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation to accept the standards. Of course, even a process as elaborate as this does not guarantee an outcome that is immune to criticism. A similar point can be made concerning the Guiding Principles for Evaluators, which first appeared in 1995 and were revised in 2004 (American Evaluation Association, 2004). Indeed, the issue of "New Directions for Program Evaluation" that presented the original Guiding Principles included several chapters by distinguished authors critiquing them. For example, concerns were raised about the principles' generality, vagueness, and lack of specific illustrations of their application (Knott, 1995; Rossi, 1995) as well as the need to prioritize the principles and to emphasize more strongly the importance of the evaluator's independence (Chelimsky, 1995). The cultural limitations of the principles were also noted, along with the need to address in greater detail issues such as the use/misuse of evaluators' work and the situations in which evaluators should decline a request for evaluation (Hendricks & Conner, 1995). Barely out of the oven and still warm, the Guiding Principles were repeatedly poked and prodded, sometimes quite sharply, confirming the axiom that "no good deed goes unpunished." It is with this background in mind that the author offers his observations about what is arguably the most intriguing Guiding Principle: Responsibilities for General and Public Welfare. The core statement of this principle is that "evaluators articulate and take into account the diversity of general and public interests and values that may be related to an evaluation." The authors of the 1995 Guiding Principles noted that "the key debates in the task force concerned evaluation and the public interest", a relationship that is at the heart of the Responsibilities principle. In this essay the author asks if the fifth principle is a platitude, an inspiration, or a source of trouble and mischief. In this analysis the author attempts to show that it is all of these things, and perhaps necessarily so.
SAGE Publications. 2455 Teller Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91320. Tel: 800-818-7243; Tel: 805-499-9774; Fax: 800-583-2665; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A