Evaluation is a Way of Thinking

Apr 3rd, 2012 / Data Visualization /

Yes, this post is based on the assumption that evaluators are responsible for teaching new skills to the people who fund, manage, and run social programs. Capacity building is a big part of my role as an internal evaluator, and I’m a big proponent of utilization-focused evaluation.
Do you want to write an awesome evaluation report, click the send button, and just cross your fingers and hope someone reads your report? The people reading your evaluation reports aren’t always in a position to really understand and use the findings just yet. More about this later.
Evaluators have an opportunity to teach higher-order thinking skills to the people who manage and run social programs. The people you’re working with will apply these skills to all their future programming while your evaluation report sits on a dusty shelf.
First, evaluators need to understand the different levels of critical thinking skills and knowledge. From basic to advanced:

  1. Knowledge – The people reading your report can recall facts, terms, and basic concepts. Memorization.
  2. Comprehension – The people reading your report can understand the facts and ideas by organizing, comparing, translating, interpreting, giving descriptions, and stating main ideas.
  3. Application – The people reading your report can apply what they’ve learned in different ways when they’re in new situations in the future.
  4. Analysis – The people reading your report can examine and break down information by identifying motives, causes, etc. They can make inferences to find evidence and support generalizations.
  5. Synthesis – The people reading your report can compile the information together in different ways by thinking about new patterns they’ve noticed or by proposing alternative solutions.
  6. Evaluation – The people reading your report can present and defend their opinions about the results by making judgments about information, about the validity of the results, or about the quality of the work based on a set of criteria.

You’re doing evaluation. So isn’t getting people to the “evaluation” level of critical thinking your goal? Aim high.
Stay tuned for future posts about how to incite these higher-order thinking skills throughout the evaluation.

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