Context: A Framework for Its Influence on Evaluation Practice

Overview

Context is a force in evaluation. It shapes our practice,influencing how we approach and design our studies, how we carrythem out, and how we report our findings. Context also moderatesand mediates the outcomes of the programs and policies weevaluate.

This issue focuses squarely on the role that context playsin practice and illuminates its effect on the implementation andoutcomes of programs. Exploring the ways in which attending tocontext may improve the quality of ...

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Overview

Context is a force in evaluation. It shapes our practice,influencing how we approach and design our studies, how we carrythem out, and how we report our findings. Context also moderatesand mediates the outcomes of the programs and policies weevaluate.

This issue focuses squarely on the role that context playsin practice and illuminates its effect on the implementation andoutcomes of programs. Exploring the ways in which attending tocontext may improve the quality of evaluation practice, thecontributions span theory, methods, and practice in an effort tomove to a more comprehensive conceptualization of context that canguide our work. It:

  • Provides an historical and theoretical view ofevaluators’ treatment of context
  • Illustrates how context has influenced evaluation practice
  • Presents a five-area framework for guiding a contextualanalysis of evaluations 
  • Introduces “context assessment,” which provides ameans of integrating context and its implications within theimportant stages of evaluation.

This is the 135th volume of the Jossey-Bass quarterlyreport series New Directions for Evaluation, an officialpublication of the American Evaluation Association.

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Product Details

Table of Contents

EDITORS’ NOTES 1
Debra J. Rog, Jody L. Fitzpatrick, Ross F. Conner

1. An Introduction to Context and Its Role in EvaluationPractice 7
Jody L. Fitzpatrick

This chapter provides an historical and conceptual review of theevaluation literature on context. Particular attention is paid totwo areas in which context has been carefully considered byevaluators: the crosscultural or multicultural evaluation andinternational evaluation.

2. When Background Becomes Foreground: TowardContext-Sensitive Evaluation Practice 25
Debra J. Rog

The evaluation field lacks a unified understanding orcomprehensive theory of context, and the attention to context inmany evaluations is more implicit than explicit. This chapterattempts to bring context from the background to the foreground ofour work by offering a framework for guiding context-sensitiveevaluation.

3. The Social Context of Water Quality Improvement Evaluation41
Linda P. Thurston, Christa A. Smith, Kenneth Genskow, LindaStalker Prokopy, William L. Hargrove

This chapter discusses the contextual issues related toevaluating water quality programs, with a focus on the problem andsetting contexts of Rog’s framework. The authors stress theneed for evaluating the social dimensions of watershed projects andhighlight an example of a water quality evaluation that addressesregional social indicators.

4. Culture Writes the Script: On the Centrality of Context inIndigenous Evaluation 59
Joan LaFrance, Richard Nichols, Karen E. Kirkhart

This chapter describes the indigenous evaluation framework(IEF), a framework that underscores the centrality of context in anindigenous approach. The authors explain the fundamental elementsof IEF epistemology and offer several examples of IEF in evaluationin American Indian communities.

5. Political Culture as Context for Evaluation 75
Peter Dahler-Larsen, Thomas A. Schwandt

This chapter discusses the relationship of political culture andevaluation, illustrated through two accounts of Danish politicalculture. The authors use the examples to show that the concept ofcontext is more elusive, more interminable, and less easily managedand accounted for than evaluators often take it to be.

6. A First Step Forward: Context Assessment 89
Ross F. Conner, Jody L. Fitzpatrick, Debra J. Rog

Context assessment provides a way to recognize the importance ofcontext and act on it. The authors outline a process of contextassessment that takes a first step in making context more explicitand outlines the mix of benefits, limitations, and challengesinvolved in using the approach.

INDEX 107

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