(Thank you for this thought, Plexus Institute.)
No, I’m not talking about the current political situation in the US. I’m talking about evaluation.
Art Markman makes this comment (the “how do we make decisions…” comment) here. He says “If you dislike every choice you’ve got, you’ll look for one to reject rather than one to prefer—subtle difference, big consequences.” He based this opinion on research, saying that the rejection mind-set allows us to focus on negative information about options and fixate on the one with the smallest downside.
Evaluation is one area where the evaluator must often choose between the lesser of two evils.
For example, suppose you (the evaluator) gets asked to “retrofit” an evaluation on a program; that retrofit is a happiness questionnaire (you know, how satisfied are the participants with the program delivery).
Now y’all know that the evaluator needs to be included in the planning stages of the program.
Y’all also know that measuring the satisfaction of the participants doesn’t tell you much (if anything).
It certainly doesn’t tell you if a difference was made in learning, behavior, and/or conditions. So what do you do?
Lesser of two options
So what do you do?
Read the research.
Identify the options (even though they are less than desirable).
Make a choice.
See if you can change the frame. See what difference you can make.
The choice I made in the above situation was to change the frame.
I offered a post then pre approach. This avoids happiness questionnaires (or can). And it can offer a difference made in learning, even if retrofitted. It has the smallest downside.
I don’t like to retrofit an evaluation; sometimes it is the lesser of two evils.
Doing what we can
As Stake says, “We promise more than we can really do.” As evaluators, we continue to do and in the process improve our programs, policies, and organizations. (thank you M. Justin Miller and Tiffany Smith for these wise words).