Last Friday, I had the opportunity to talk with a group of graduate students about evaluation as I have seen it (for the past now almost 30 years) and currently see it.
The previous day, I finished an in depth, three-day professional development session on differences. Now, I would guess you are wondering what do these two activities have in common and how they relate to evaluation. All three are tied together through an individual’s perspective. I was looking for a teachable moment and I found one.
A response often given by evaluators when asked a question about the merit and worth of something (program, process, product, policy, personnel, etc.) is, “It all depends.”
And you wonder, “Depends on what?”
The answer is: PERSPECTIVE.
Your experiences place you in a unique and original place. Your view point is influenced by those experiences; as are your attitudes, your behaviors, your biases; your understanding of differences; your approach to problem solving; your view of inquiry. All this is perspective. And when you make decisions about something, those experiences (i.e., your perspective) affect your decisions. Various dimensions of experience and birth (the diversity wheel to the left lists the dimensions of difference) affect what choices you make; affect how you approach a problem; affect what questions you ask; affect your interpretation of a situation.
The graduate students came from different employment backgrounds; were of different ages, genders, marital status, ethnicity, appearance, educational background, health status, income, geographic location and probably other differences I couldn’t tell from looking or listening. Their view of evaluation was different. They asked different questions. The answer to which was “It all depends.” And even that (It all depends) is an evaluative activity–not unlike talking to graduate students, understanding perspective, or doing evaluation.