CRDG Evaluators Contributing to Growing Field of Research on Evaluation

CRDG’s team of evaluators continued to work on specific evaluation projects, both within CRDG and for outside groups including the Hawai‘i Departments of Education and Health. But as members of the academic community, their focus is not only on carrying out evaluations, but also on contributing to the growing field of research on evaluation (RoE), an aspect of their work that we feature here.

This aspect of their work addresses repeated calls in the professional literature over the past 40 years to establish a stronger theoretical and empirical foundation for evaluators’ understanding of evaluation practice, evaluation methods, evaluation theory, and the profession of evaluation have led to the growth in RoH, both here at CRDG and across the nation. Over about the past 25 years, the work of the CRDG evaluators on RoE has been presented at national evaluation conferences, published in several national refereed journals, and discussed in books. It has contributed to the background for grants from the National Science Foundation and the U. S. Department of Education and helped serve as the foundation for the selection of CRDG faculty member Paul Brandon as the 2013–2018 editor-in-chief of the American Evaluation Association journal, New Directions for Evaluation. It is this “behind-the-scenes” work, so visible within their professional community, that is not often seen here within the local educational community, even as it helps to strengthen and support schools in Hawai‘i.

Research on evaluation involves systematic inquiry about the inputs into evaluations, the context within which evaluations are conducted, evaluation activities, evaluation outcomes, professional issues, and the implications of the findings on these topics for our understanding of evaluation theory, methods, and practice. CRDG’s work in RoE falls into four broad areas:

  • Research on the practice of evaluation includes the study of (a) the degree to which the participation of program personnel in evaluations affects evaluation methods and results and (b) the degree to which programs are implemented as intended.
  • Research on the methods of evaluation has examined the development, validation, and use of evaluation methods such as classroom observations, teacher logs, and other data collection instruments.
  • Research on the theory of evaluation has addressed fundamental issues in evaluation—revisited regularly in new contexts over the years—that undergird how and why evaluations are conducted. Theory topics have included the extent to which respect for the culture affects evaluation methods when working with indigenous populations, the use of evaluation findings by program personnel, and others.
  • Research on the profession of evaluation has included reviews of the degree to which research-on-evaluation studies have been reported in the professional evaluation literature, the extent to which evaluators reporting conduct RoE, and some of the predictors of conducting RoE.

In recent years, the breadth and growth of RoE has been well documented, and CRDG faculty and staff have contributed to this through publication of several evaluation instruments in the professional evaluation literature. As editor-in-chief of New Directions for Evaluation, Brandon is taking a leadership role in the field, with an upcoming special issue of the journal on RoE. In the proposed issue, researchers conducting empirical studies will learn about the existing coverage of RoE topics in the literature, gaps in the coverage, designs that they might use, their peers’ preferences for methods in RoE studies, as well as findings of RoE useful in their own practice and teaching. Evaluation practitioners will be able to add to the body of knowledge about evaluation context, process use, and the effects of RoE outside of academia.