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The core of evaluation: Evaluative Thinking by Tom Grayson


Hello Evaluators!  I’m Tom Grayson, former member of the AEA Board, recently retired as Director of Evaluation in Student Affairs at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. Currently,  I am an evaluation consultant and facilitator.

I just finished reading the recent issue of New Directions for Evaluation, Number 158 Summer 2018, titled “Evaluative Thinking.” This issue offers a broad-based understanding of evaluative thinking. It’s edited by Anne T. Vo and Thomas Archibald. And it is just what the doctor ordered… a prescription for thoughtful evaluations. This issue reminded me of the novella, The Petit Prince, written by Saint-Exupery (1942). In this fable for adults, the Fox tells the Prince his simple secret: “One sees clearly only with the heart [reason]. Anything essential [in evaluation practice] is invisible to the eyes”.

Evaluators, regardless of the cross-disciplinary diversity in fields of work, must recognize that evaluative thinking is at the core of evaluation practice. Listed here are a few of our esteemed evaluation colleagues who have expressed their understanding of what evaluative thinking is about. Their thoughts regarding the importance of evaluative thinking are clearly stated and are echoed in the Summer 2018 NDE publication.

Lesson Learned:

Evaluative thinking is critical in our practice of evaluation, i.e., our systematic collection and analysis of facts in order to make informed judgments about the merit (quality), value (worth) and significance of whatever is being evaluated.

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