ERIC Number: EJ897834
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Sep
Reference Count: 15
The Case for Better Evaluation Theory: Comments on Miller, Kirkhart, and Smith
Thomas, Veronica G.
American Journal of Evaluation, v31 n3 p414-417 Sep 2010
Over the past two decades, there has been tension underscoring the nature, role, and importance of theory in the evaluation field. Some notable evaluation scholars contend that there is little need for evaluation theory and that good evaluative practice can occur with little or no regard to evaluation theory. Yet, others maintain that evaluation theories can (and should) play a critical role in the field. Responding to the repeated calls for stronger evidence about the quality and utility of evaluation theories, the thought-provoking and timely articles by Miller, Kirkhart, and Smith provide guidance, from different vantage points, for better evaluation of evaluation theory. In particular, these authors present a criterion-based framework for evaluating theory (Miller), a stance on the importance of engaging in a cultural critique of evaluation theory for enhancing validity (Kirkhart), and a conceptual approach for evaluating theories depending on how the evaluand is characterized (Smith). Undoubtedly, the approaches offered by these authors have the potential to lead to refinement of existing evaluation theory, development of new theoretical approaches, and strengthening the evaluation theory--practice connection. A likely difficulty, however, exists in unambiguously and uniformly putting into practice the criteria offered by Miller, Kirkhart, and Smith. Despite the well-articulated basis for evaluating evaluation theory as proposed by Miller, Kirkhart, and Smith, theorists will continue to be challenged with making evaluation theory less abstract and intimidating to bridge the gap between evaluation theory and practice.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
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