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Conference Program Evaluation

Highlights from Michael Quinn Patton’s #eval13 talk on the ‘State of Developmental Evaluation’

Michael Patton gave a great talk today at AEA13 on the State of Developmental Evaluation.  Here are some highlights.

1. The ‘Doors’ to Discovering Developmental Evaluation.

Patton observed that developmental evaluators and clients typically arrive at DE through multiple doors. One door through which people arrive at DE are those engaged in innovation. The second door through which people arrive at DE are those seeking systems change. The third door through which people arrive at DE are those dealing with complexity. The final door through which people arrive at DE are those working with unstable, changing context.

Driving this  ‘search for the alternative’ are evaluation users’ desire for a compatible evaluation framework.

2. DE is becoming a bonafide approach. 

AEA 13 features over 30+ sessions on developmental evaluation.

The Australasian Evaluation Society recently awarded their Best Policy and Evaluation Award to a crew of developmental evaluators.

(The CES awarded its  best student essay to an empirical research on understanding the capacity of DE for developing innovative program.)

3. DE is best enabled by clients who are willing to explore and experiment.

4. DE is methods-agnostic, and in fact, defies prescription.

Patton emphasized the importance of operating from the principles of DE and applying and adapting them when conducting DE. (Another way of looking this is to frame DE as engaging in inquiry… this might actually make a nice blog post).

Some observations…

Participants raised some great questions during the Q&A session.  Part of the confusion, it seems to me, lies in the more subtle aspects  to how and why Developmental Evaluation might be more appropriate/useful in some contexts. This confusion arises because of how necessarily responsive developmental evaluation is by design. The on-ramping for someone who hasn’t done DE, but wants to do it, can be difficult. So,  I wonder if there might be a place for a clearinghouse of sort for frequently asked questions—i.e. the sort often asked by newcomers.

By Chi Yan Lam

Dr. Chi Yan Lam is a Credentialed Evaluator and an Adjunct Assistant Professor of evaluation at the Faculty of Education and the Faculty of Health Sciences, Queen’s University; he is also a full-time evaluator practicing in public service. He specializes in evaluating large-scale, complex programs and incorporates multi-, mixed- and design methods in his evaluations to answer questions of importance to program administrators and policy makers working on educational and social programs. His articles on evaluation have been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the American Journal of Evaluation and the Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation. He has been a holder of the professional designation in evaluation since 2014.

1 reply on “Highlights from Michael Quinn Patton’s #eval13 talk on the ‘State of Developmental Evaluation’”

Thanks for sharing your notes about Michael Patton’s presentation today. We have a section on Developmental Evaluation on the BetterEvaluation site ( http://betterevaluation.org/developmental_evaluation) where we have started some FAQs about DE – beginning with a question about how to budget for a DE, which we answered through an interview with Michael Patton. (You can jump to this page here http://betterevaluation.org/resources/overview/mqp_de_budget_eval_interview)

We’d be interested to trial adding more FAQs to the page.
Patricia Rogers, BetterEvaluation

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