Theory & Practice Week: Advanced Studies in Evaluation Theory by Ayesha Boyce

My name is Ayesha Boyce and I am an assistant professor within the Educational Research Methodology Department at the University of North Carolina Greensboro. Our department offers a comprehensive curriculum in program evaluation with a social justice focus. Jill Anne Chouinard, Tiffany Smith, and I teach classes in program evaluation and research methodology where we emphasize good practice with mindful attentiveness to theoretical roots. Advanced evaluation theory is one of the seven program evaluation courses graduate students are able to enroll in. This course critically examines diverse approaches to the evaluation of education and social programs. The course analyzes four major branches evaluation (Alkin, 2013; Mertens & Wilson, 2012), demarcated by their major purpose and audience. Across paradigms, the course focuses on evaluation approaches’ assumptions about knowledge, views of social programs and social change, stances regarding the role and purpose of evaluation in society, location of values in evaluation, and intended utilization and applicability of evaluative findings. I was the instructor of the inaugural course, offered in Spring 2018.

Lesson Learned: Chatting with evaluation thought leaders virtually

One of the most exciting aspects of the course was to have renowned evaluation thought leader, Tom Schwandt, Skype into class twice. We used chapters from his Evaluation Foundations Revisited book and wanted to be able to converse with him about a few of the topics. As an evaluation educator, I have found that it doesn’t hurt to send an email to evaluation authors, scholars, and thought leaders to see if they might be interested in participating in a conversation with students virtually!

Lesson Learned: Innovative course activities

There are three aspects of the course that I found to work well with engaging the sometimes esoteric topic of evaluation theory.

  • I developed opportunities for students to role play as evaluators and stakeholders with differing values in multiple contexts which assisted in bringing theory into a more practical realm.
  • For the final assignment students were asked to present their papers in a variety of non-traditional representational forms, including case study critique, debate, interactive activity, simulated town meeting, narrative, poetry, or performance. This style of presentation, often championed by AEA president Leslie Goodyear and past president Jennifer Greene, allowed for creative and less formal presentations, which can be used when working with a variety of stakeholders and to engage with competing values and cultural ways of knowing.
  • Finally, I had each student write a blog post and I am pleased that for the next five days, you all will be able to read their reflections on evaluation theory and practice.

Rad Resources:

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Theory and Practice week. The aea365 contributions all this week come from Dr. Ayesha Boyce and her University of North Carolina Greensboro graduate students’ reflections on evaluation theory and practiceDo 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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