Evaluation, by definition, answers evaluative questions, that is, questions about ‘quality’ (how good something is) and ‘value’ (taking into account the specific situation such as the resources used to produce the results and the needs it was supposed to address). Evaluative reasoning is required to synthesize dimensions of quality and value to formulate defensible (i.e., well reasoned and well evidenced) answers to the evaluative questions.
The structure of an evaluation report can do a great deal to encourage the succinct reporting of direct answers to evaluative questions, backed up by enough detail about the evaluative reasoning and methodology to allow the reader to follow the logic and clearly see the evidence base.
The following recommendations will help to set clear expectations for evaluation reports that are strong on evaluative reasoning:
- The executive summary must contain direct and explicitly evaluative answers to the key evaluation questions (KEQs) used to guide the whole evaluation.
- Explicitly evaluative language must be used when presenting findings (rather than value-neutral language that merely describes findings). Examples should be provided.
- Use of clear and simple data visualization to present easy-to-understand ‘snapshots’ of how the intervention has performed on the various dimensions of merit.
- Structuring of the findings section using KEQs as subheadings (rather than types and sources of evidence, as is frequently done).
- There must be clarity and transparency about the evaluative reasoning used, with the explanations clearly understandable to both non-evaluators and readers without deep content expertise in the subject matter. These explanations should be broad and brief in the main body of the report, with more detail available in annexes.
- If evaluative rubrics are relatively small in size, these should be included in the main body of the report. If they are large, a brief summary of at least one or two should be included in the main body of the report, with all rubrics included in full in an annex.
A hallmark of great evaluative reasoning is how succinctly and clearly key points can be conveyed without glossing over important details.
[Source: Davidson J. Evaluative reasoning. UNICEF Methodological Brief 4 on Impact Evaluation. Florence: UNICEF]
- Evaluation report
- Products tailored to different audiences: Evaluation summary, Policy Brief, Newsletter, Conference presentation etc.
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+ - 2. Scope the evaluation
- Clarify what will be evaluated
- Describe the theory of change
- Identify who are the primary intended users of the evaluation and what will they use it for
- Develop agreed key evaluation questions
- Decide the timing of the evaluation
- Decide whether the evaluation will be done by an external team, an internal team or a hybrid of both
- Determine the evaluator qualities
- Identify what resources are available for the evaluation and what will be needed