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AES Workshop: Theory based approaches for complex systems

This workshop is designed to enable participants to understand and explore theory based approaches to evaluation of complex programs, and/or programs in complex contexts.

Australia
11th April, 2018 to 12th April, 2018
Event City: 
Sydney
Event State/Province: 
New South Wales
Event cost: 
Paid
Event type: 
Workshop

About the workshop

This workshop is designed to enable participants to understand and explore theory based approaches to evaluation of complex programs, and/or programs in complex contexts.

The workshop introduces various approaches to ideas of ‘systems’, ‘complexity’, and ‘context’ and their implications for commissioning and conducting evaluations. It also introduces different types of theory and their implications for, and use in, theory based evaluation for complex programs and/or programs in complex systems. It then demonstrates different ways of approaching the idea of ‘program theory’ for different kinds of evaluation questions in relation to complex programs. It introduces realist evaluation (one type of theory based evaluation), and explores the ‘fit’ between principles of complexity theory and principles of realist evaluation. Finally, it demonstrates how realist approaches can be used to obtain portable findings from evaluation of complex programs.

Workshop Content

  • Constructs of ‘complexity’ and their implications for evaluation
  • Practical uses of different types of theory in evaluation of complex programs or programs in complex systems
  • The ‘fit’ between principles of complexity theory and principles of realist evaluation
  • Understanding causation in complex programs
  • Approaches to ‘program theory’ for complex programs
  • Guidance for design of realist/theory based evaluations of complex programs.

Workshop Outcomes

By the end of the workshop, participants should be able to:

  • Determine which constructs of ‘complexity’ are most appropriate for an evaluation of their choosing;
  • Describe the factors to take into account in determining: the boundaries for the evaluation; the key evaluation questions to be investigated; and the approach to program theory most useful for the evaluation
  • Explain how realist evaluation generates portable findings from evaluation of complex programs

PL competencies

This workshop aligns with competencies in the AES Evaluator’s Professional Learning Competency Framework:

  • Domain 2 – Evaluation theory
  • Domain 3 – Culture, stakeholders and context
  • Domain 4 – Research methods and systematic inquiry

Who should attend?

This is an advanced skills workshop for evaluators and researchers, commissioners of evaluation, and post-graduate students of evaluation. Moderate levels of expertise in evaluation are assumed. A working knowledge of theory based evaluation and/or realist evaluation will be an advantage.

Workshop facilitator

Dr Gill Westhorp is a specialist in realist research and evaluation methodologies, a part-time academic and part-time consultant. She is a Professorial Research Fellow at Charles Darwin University, where she leads the Realist Research Evaluation and Learning Initiative (RREALI), focusing on development of realist research and evaluation methodology and methods. She is also an Associate at RMIT University and a member of the Advisory Committee for the Centre for the Advancement of Realist Evaluation and Synthesis (CARES) at Liverpool University, UK. She is also Director of a small research and evaluation consultancy company specialising in realist approaches. She is a co-author of the RAMESES standards for realist synthesis (realist literature review) and RAMESES standards for realist evaluation.