As I teach a program evaluation course this semester, and as someone who began teaching program evaluation nearly 20 years ago (!), I find myself once again reflecting on how I define program evaluation and differentiate it from related fields and practices. My definitions and distinctions have certainly evolved over the years. In addition to commonly held definitions and distinctions, I have come to advocate that program evaluation requires big picture, evaluative questions to guide the work; data collection methods and sources chosen for the purpose of addressing those evaluation questions; and multiple sources of data. If these criteria are not met, it is not program evaluation. My evolving thoughts are captured in a document posted here. I would love your feedback!
As a program evaluator, I teach, research, and apply analytic methods. I help people identify, understand, and assess problems and solutions. This way of knowing and working is threatened by “problems” and “solutions” that aren’t based on systematic and sound analysis, but are simply sound bites that stir emotion. We need evaluation capacity building more than ever! The more people understand and value analytic methods, the less acceptable fake news, fake problems, fake solutions, and alternative facts will be. It’s a bird…it’s a plane…it’s Evaluation Capacity Building!