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PE Standards Week: Thinking About Standards Past and Present, at Home and Abroad by Brad Watts

I am Brad Watts, an evaluator with over two decades of experience and a former chair of the Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation (JCSEE), the group officially charged with developing, reviewing, and approving evaluation standards in North America.

Today’s blog serves two purposes. First, I would like to introduce a week of blogs covering an array of topics, all related to the JCSEE Program Evaluation Standards (PES). Although the JCSEE has developed standards on a variety of different topics over the years, the PES are the most important and relevant to practicing program evaluators in all fields. The authors who will be providing blogs over the rest of the week will go on to exemplify this importance to the broader field of evaluation by sharing a range of perspectives on how the PES have influenced them, their scholarship, or their professional context.

Lessons Learned

Preparing for this blog week and reading the perspectives of other authors on the PES and all the different ways these standards can influence our work as evaluators got me thinking about the importance of evaluation standards as an effort beyond the confines of the U.S. and Canadian experience. As the JCSEE works on revising the PES to create a new fourth edition, it is worth considering alternate approaches and guidelines for evaluation quality that have been developed by other organizations.

Rad Resources

Here are a few examples of different approaches to evaluation standards from around the globe.

The Australasian Evaluation Society has a set of Guidelines for the Ethical Conduct of Evaluation. Their approach is organized by three aspects of the evaluation process: commissioning and preparing for the evaluation, conducting the evaluation, and reporting results. I like how these guidelines both provide a possible structure for conducting the evaluation while being tightly focused on problems and ethical concerns that should be addressed to produce a high quality evaluation product.

The African Evaluation Association (AfrEA) recently (in 2021) replaced its evaluation guidelines with The African Evaluation Principles. This approach is unique in its focus on the importance of context, specifically how and why evaluations must reflect the unique context of evaluation in Africa. The five principles each contain sub-statements that provide accessible guidance on conducting high-quality and relevant evaluation products.

Finally, it is worth highlighting the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) DAC evaluation criteria. Although these were primarily designed for the evaluation of international development projects, their six main criteria hold relevance to nearly any type of evaluation and provide another way of thinking about evaluation quality and practice.

This week, we’re diving the Program Evaluation Standards. Articles will (re)introduce you to the Standards and the Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation (JCSEE), the organization responsible for developing, reviewing, and approving evaluation standards in North America. 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@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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