Mel Mark on “Thought Questions” to Improve Evaluation Practice

Hello, I am Melvin Mark, Professor and Head of Psychology at Penn State University. When you read books or articles about evaluation, the focus typically is on doing an upcoming evaluation. Given that conducting individual evaluations is what evaluators are usually hired to do, this focus of our books, articles, and conversations makes sense.

Hot Tip: There are a set of questions that are not about the conduct of an individual evaluation that might deserve more of our attention. Consider a few examples:

  • What gets evaluated and why? For instance, do evaluation funders tend to focus on questions for youth and the disadvantaged?
  • Collectively, should we try to help to bring about evaluation of certain programs or policies that have escaped evaluation (e.g., should we encourage evaluators in academic settings to take on certain work pro bono)?
  • What should our professional associations try to do, beyond offering professional development, standards and principles, conferences and articles that focus on individual evaluations?
  • What different roles might evaluators (and others) legitimately take on in efforts to facilitate the use of evaluation?

Exploring such questions can be fun. Moreover, I think it can help us to improve the way we conduct evaluations, to act in ways that are both ethical and useful, and to bring value to individual evaluators, to those we serve, and to the field at large.

Want to explore these questions, and others, with Mel? He will be serving as the discussant for the week of June 20-26 on AEA’s Thought Leaders Forum. Learn more online here:

1 thought on “Mel Mark on “Thought Questions” to Improve Evaluation Practice”

  1. I was at a workshop just this week where we talked about your first question: “What gets evaluated and why?” – specifically in relation to health care. The general sense in the group was that often the little things get evaluated, while the big ticket items are “sacred cows” that no one is allowed to ask “Is this practice really evidence-based? Does it provide benefits in line with its extremely high costs?” Interesting questions to explore!

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