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Monday, September 16 • 12:00pm - 12:30pm
The Consolations of Evaluation Theory

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Brad Astbury (ARTD), Andrew Hawkins (ARTD)

Conducting an evaluation is never easy - it must be rigorous, practical, useful, real-world, and participatory. It is almost always the case that there is insufficient time to do it all in one study. But how do we determine what is the best approach right now? Rather than follow the latest fashion or treat everything as a nail because all we have is a hammer, we believe the best place to find answers is in the consolations of evaluation theory - that is, in examination and reflection on the fundamental questions that have occupied key evaluation thinkers over the last 60 years.

In this paper we present a series of ideas and conceptual maps that have been developed and used to focus any given evaluation. Each map or diagram considers similar fundamental issues and theorists but for slightly different uses.

The first speaker will articulate the nature and components of evaluation theory and distil insights from the 'big seven' theorists as identified in Shadish, Cook and Leviton's (1991) seminal text Foundations of Program Evaluation: Theories of Practice. A schematic of the practice-theory relationship in evaluation is offered to highlight ways in which various kinds of theory can be integrated to support and guide the design and conduct of evaluation.

The second speaker will present two maps- one on the 'information to cost ratio' that is designed for decisions about the most appropriate method for impact evaluation, and one on 'navigating uncertainty' which is broader and focused on the use of evaluation for piloting a path from a current problem to a desired future state. The second map integrates some newer theorists post 1991, particularly realist and complexity theorists.

avatar for Squirrel Main

Squirrel Main

Research and Evaluation Manager, The Ian Potter Foundation
Dr Squirrel Main is The Ian Potter Foundation's first Research and Evaluation Manager and she co-chairs the Philanthropic Evaluation and Data Analysis network. Squirrel completed her Masters at Stanford University in Evaluation and Policy Analysis (with David Fetterman--hello David... Read More →

avatar for Brad Astbury

Brad Astbury

Director, ARTD Consultants
Brad Astbury is a Director at ARTD Consulting, based in the Melbourne office. He has over 18 years’ experience in evaluation and applied social research and considerable expertise in combining diverse forms of evidence to improve both the quality and utility of evaluation. He has... Read More →

Andrew Hawkins

Partner, ARTD Consultants
Andrew works as a trusted advisor and strategic evaluator for public policy professionals, generating insight and evidence for decision-making. Andrew has worked for a wide range of Australian and NSW public sector agencies and not-for-profits on the design, monitoring and evaluation... Read More →

Monday September 16, 2019 12:00pm - 12:30pm AEST