Labor Day Week: M. Justin Miller and Tiffany Smith on Honoring Bob Stake

This is part of a two-week series honoring our living evaluation pioneers in conjunction with Labor Day in the USA (September 5).

Hello! We are M. Justin Miller and Dr. Tiffany Smith from the University of Wisconsin-Stout.
M. here – I am a graduate student in the Masters Program in Applied Psychology (MSAP), and I work for the Applied Research Center at UW-Stout, a resource for internal evaluations at UW-Stout. The Applied Research Center also does external evaluations for a variety of businesses, governmental agencies, and educational institutions.
Tiffany here – I am an assistant professor of psychology here at Stout. I teach masters evaluation courses for the MSAP program. The two of us are very interested in the development of the evaluation field, and the effect that influential people have on our careers in applied psychology.

We chose Robert Stake for our honoree. Stake is a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign who pioneered the evaluation field in many ways.

Why we chose to honor this evaluator:
Stake deserves honor during this series of AEA365s because he not only contributed to many elements of evaluation, but he also inspires many young evaluators with his stance toward evaluation. As Stake said “Professional evaluation is where we move well beyond common sense and impression, where we reject simplistic indicators. Professional evaluation is where we combine the discipline of the connoisseur, the logic of the philosopher, the acuity of the ethnographer, and the moral sensitivity of the judge. We promise more than we can really do” (From Evaluation Roots, 2004).

Contributions to our field:
Among his many contributions to the field of evaluation, Stake’s major contribution lies in his work regarding responsive evaluation. There are four primary components of responsive evaluation: measurement, description, judgment, and negotiation. Measurement, description, and judgment lead to successful evaluations because of the focus on quantitative data, aspects of the program relevant to the evaluations, and examination of the program’s merit. However, negotiation is what characterizes responsive evaluation because it involves the stakeholders in deciding methods for the evaluation. The evaluator negotiates methods for the evaluation after establishing criteria regarding the description and judgment of the program.

Although responsive evaluation had a heavy quantitative focus, Stake started to become more focused on qualitative research later on in his career, as can be read about in his books Qualitative Research: Studying How Things Work (2010) and The Art of Case Study Research (1995). This shift toward qualitative research is partially attributed to his work in educational evaluations, where he pressed for a focus on qualities of educational curriculums.

As Stake says “We promise more than we can really do”, but we continue to do, and strive to improve our programs, policies, and organizations.



Robert Stake – University of Illinois

Evaluation Roots, 2012 Author Page

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Labor Day Week in Evaluation: Honoring Evaluation’s Living Pioneers. The contributions this week are tributes to our living evaluation pioneers who have made important contributions to our field and even positive impacts on our careers as evaluators. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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