This will be short.

I showed a revised version of Alkin’s Evaluation Theory Tree in last week’s post. It had leaves. It looked like this:Evaluation theory tree edition 2

It was taken from the second edition of Alkin’s book.

I have had two comments about this tree.

  1. There are few women represented in the tree. (True, especially in the draft version; in version above there are more.)
  2. I was reminded about the  Fred  Carden and Marvin C. Alkin’s article in the Journal of Multidisciplinary Evaluation, 8(17), January 2012. (There are still more leaves and the global south is represented.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Recently, I got a copy of Marvin Alkin’s book, Evaluation Roots (his first edition; eventually, I will get the second edition).

In Chapter Two, he and Tina Christie talk about an evaluation theory tree and presents this idea graphically (all be it in draft form).

Think of your typical tree with three strong branches (no leaves) and two roots. Using this metaphor, the authors explain the development of evaluation theory as it appears in western (read global north) societies.evaluation theory tree

As you can see, the roots are “accountability and control” (positivist paradigm?) and social inquiry (post-positivist paradigm?). Read the rest of this entry »

Personal and situational bias are forms of cognitive bias and we all have cognitive bias.

When I did my dissertation on personal and situational biases, I was talking about cognitive bias (only I didn’t know it, then).

According to Wikipedia, the term cognitive bias was introduced in 1972 (I defended my dissertation in 1983) by two psychologists Daniel Kahneman  and Amos Tversky kahneman-tversky1.

Then, I hypothesized that previous research experience (naive or sophisticated)  and the effects of exposure to expected project outcomes (positive, mixed, negative) would affect the participant and make a difference in how the participant would code data. (It did.)  The Sadler article which talked about intuitive data processing was the basis for this inquiry. Now many years later, I am encountering cognitive bias again. Sadler says that “…some biases can be traced to a particular background knowledge…”(or possibly–I think–lack of knowledge), “…prior experience, emotional makeup or world view”. bias 4 (This, I think, falls under the category of, according to Tversky and Kahneman, human judgements and it will differ from rational choice theory (often given that label). Read the rest of this entry »

Filed Under (criteria, program evaluation) by Molly on 25-11-2014 and tagged , , , , ,



A uniquely American holiday (although it is celebrated in other countries as well-Canada, Liberia, The Netherlands, Norfolk Islands),

filled with too much food (pie any one?) apple pie,

too much football (what is your favorite rivalry?),football rivalry

and too much shopping (black Friday?).black-friday 3


For me it is an opportunity to to be grateful–and I am, more than words can express. I am especially grateful for my daughters, bright, articulate, and caring children (who are also adults). Read the rest of this entry »

Filed Under (criteria, program evaluation) by Molly on 19-11-2014

It all depends.

The classic evaluation response. In fact, it is the punch line for one of the few evaluation jokes I can remember (some-timers disease being what it is; if you want to know the joke, ask in your comment).

The response reminds me of something I heard (once again) while I was in Denver. One of the presenters at a session on competencies, certification, credentialing (an indirectly, about accreditation) talked about a criteria for evaluators that is not taught in preparatory programs–the tolerance for ambiguity.  Tolerance for Ambiguity (What do you see in this image?)

What is this tolerance? What is ambiguity?

According to Webster’s Seventh, tolerance is the noun form of the verb “to tolerate” and means “…the relative capacity to endure or adapt physiologically to an unfavorable environmental factor…” also defined as “…sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own; the act of allowing something; allowable deviation from a standard…”.

Using the same source, ambiguity (also a noun) means “…the quality or state of being ambiguous in meaning…” OK. Going on to ambiguous (the root of the word), it  is an adjective meaning “…doubtful or uncertain especially from obscurity or indistinctness…capable of being understood in two or more possible senses…”. Personally, I find the “capable of being understood in two or more possible senses…” relevant to evaluation and to evaluators.

Yet, I have to ask, What does all that mean? It all depends.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed Under (program evaluation) by Molly on 11-11-2014 and tagged , , , ,

Today is Veteran’s Day in the United States.

It is the day celebrated as a federal holiday by libraries, post offices, school districts; not the university. It originated as Armistice Day in celebration of the end of World War I, the war to end all wars, the Great War. The Last Two Minutes of Fighting

It wasn’t made a national holiday (celebrated by those institutions above) until 1938. The name was changed from Armistice Day to Veterans Day in 1954 after the Korean War to remember all veterans, not just those from WWI.

Yet these women and men often give the ultimate sacrifice and are often not recognized for their service.  Metrics do not capture the value, merit, or worth of their service, yet it is usually metrics that is the focus of any evaluation done.

veterans-day-images-quotes-2 (This cartoon is the segue to the next US holiday.)

my two cents.



It has been about  five/chinese_symbols_number fiveyears since I started this blog (more or less–my anniversary is actually in early December) .

Because I am an evaluator, I have asked several time is this blog making a difference. And those posts, the ones in which I ask “is this blog making a difference”, are the ones which get the most comments.  Now, truly, most comments are often either about marketing some product, inviting me to view another blog, mirroring comments made previously, or comments in a language which I cannot read (even with an online translator). Yet, there must be something about “making a difference” that engages viewers and then engages them to make a comment.

Today, I read a comment Read the rest of this entry »

Filed Under (Methodology, program evaluation) by Molly on 30-10-2014 and tagged , , ,

I read. A lot.

I also blog. Weekly, unless I’m not in the office.

This past week I read (again) Harold Jarche’s blog. He posts periodically on interesting social media finds. Some of these finds are relevant to evaluation (even if they are not framed that way). His post on October 17 included a post from Kate Pinner called Half-baked ideas  (She is found on twitter @kmpinner ).  She says, “Just because you know how to do something doesn’t mean you should: It’s rewarding to give other people a chance to shine.”

Pinner’s comment is related to a thought I’ve been mulling for some time now (a couple of years, actually). That is the whole idea of “doing as.”

David Fetterman Fetterman talks about empowerment evaluation Read the rest of this entry »

Filed Under (criteria, program evaluation) by Molly on 23-10-2014 and tagged , , , , ,

Having just returned from the annual AEA conference (Evaluation 2014) in Denver, I am taking this moment to reflect, process, and apply.front range of the rocky mountains

For years my criteria for a “good” conference was the following

  • See three long time friends and spend some time catching up;
  • Meet three people I didn’t know before and would like to continue to know;
  • Get three new ideas that I can use.

I think this year’s conference was a success (despite the difficulty in identifying who was doing what when because the management corporation minimized the program in an attempt to be ecological, if excluding). If I were to ask my daughters to rate the conference on a scale of one (1) to 10 (ten), one being not “good”, 10 being “good”, I think they would have said an 8 – 8.5. (They have their own following of friends and their own interests.)

I saw and talked to three long time friends, although I missed those who have chosen not to attend AEA any more (I must be getting old) and those with whom I didn’t spend time.

I met more than three people I didn’t know before and I must say, if they are any indication (and I think they are) of the evolution of the association, the association is in good hands (even though I miss the intimacy I “grew up with”). Read the rest of this entry »

Recently, I drafted a paper about a capacity building; I’ll be presenting it at the 2014 AEA conference. The example on which I was reporting was regional and voluntary; it took a dedication, a commitment from participants. During the drafting of that paper, I had think about the parts of the program; what would be necessary for individuals who were interested in evaluation and had did not have a degree. I went back to the competencies listed in the AJE article (March 2005) that I cited in a previous post. I found it interesting to see that the choices I made (after consulting with evaluation colleagues) were listed in the competencies identified by Stevahn et al., yet they list so much more. So the question occurs to me is: To be competent, to build institutional evaluation capacity are all those needed? Read the rest of this entry »