Being an Evaluator

Your Practical Guide to Evaluation

Donna R. Podems

HardcoverPaperbacke-bookprint + e-book
November 21, 2018
ISBN 9781462537815
Price: $97.00
368 Pages
Size: 7⅜" x 9¼"
November 23, 2018
ISBN 9781462537808
Price: $47.00
368 Pages
Size: 7⅜" x 9¼"
October 29, 2018
ePub and PDF ?
Price: $47.00
368 Pages
print + e-book
Paperback + e-Book (ePub and PDF) ?
Price: $94.00 $51.70
368 Pages

Demystifying the evaluation journey, this is the first evaluation mentoring book that addresses the choices, roles, and challenges that evaluators must navigate in the real world. Experienced evaluator and trainer Donna R. Podems covers both conceptual and technical aspects of practice in a friendly, conversational style. She focuses not just on how to do evaluations but how to think like an evaluator, fostering reflective, ethical, and culturally sensitive practice. Extensive case examples illustrate the process of conceptualizing and implementing an evaluation—clarifying interventions, identifying beneficiaries, gathering data, discussing results, valuing, and developing recommendations. The differences (and connections) between research, evaluation, and monitoring are explored. Handy icons identify instructive features including self-study exercises, group activities, clarifying questions, facilitation and negotiation techniques, insider tips, advice, and resources. Purchasers can access a companion website to download and print reproducible materials for some of the activities and games described in the book.

“Donna Podems has a wealth of experience and easily engages the reader in an exploration of the field with appropriately attenuated aplomb and generously sprinkled humor….She provides [a] broad definition of the field, describing practice in friendly ways, and spends a good deal of time translating her experience into practical and prescriptive lessons. She intends, and succeeds at, ‘demystifying’ evaluation practice and exploring what it means to be an evaluator….Dr. Podems deftly uses stories from the field, friendly insider secrets, a consistent evaluand as an example, and other well-applied storytelling mechanisms to make the endeavor less mysterious. The novice and experienced evaluator will [gain] purchase with the examples she leverages to make evaluation more accessible.”

Journal of MultiDisciplinary Evaluation

“I love this book! I learned a great deal and gleaned many new ideas for explaining and teaching complex topics, such as the difference between assessment and measurement. The author masterfully describes important aspects of evaluation. I particularly enjoy the way she breaks down the problem statement into 'grand' and 'pocket' problems. I also really like the idea of developing each step of program logic by assessing the difference between fact and assumption. This is marvelous because it backs into a logic model with program theory already in place.”

—Mary E. Arnold, PhD, College of Public Health and Human Sciences, Oregon State University

“Being an evaluator is, for Podems, a way of being—active in asking questions, responsive to context, open to where the data lead, and committed to useful results. This way of being is the basis for this practical book. The author's perspective and knowledge—grounded in extensive international experience, informed by theory, and rooted in values—make her the consummate evaluation guide. This book covers the whole territory of evaluation with wit and wisdom. Join Podems for an exquisite journey into the world of evaluation practice.”

—Michael Quinn Patton, PhD, Director, Utilization-Focused Evaluation, Saint Paul, Minnesota

“Highly recommended. This text offers a very distinctive perspective on what it means to be an evaluator. Skillfully juxtaposing theory and real-world issues, the book uniquely prepares aspiring evaluators for what they will encounter when actually conducting an evaluation. From conceptualization to implementation and dissemination, the text covers the vital challenges evaluators struggle with in every project. Drawing on a wealth of evaluation experience, the author offers needed guidance.”

—Neil J. Vincent, PhD, Department of Social Work, DePaul University

“Those who find themselves performing evaluations as part of their jobs will find this book invaluable. In a single volume, philosophical underpinnings, as well as ethics and standards, are combined with the technical aspects of practice—together with helpful tips, activities, and facilitative strategies. As a supplement to formal training, this is the 'all-in-one' manual for evaluation practitioners.”

—Aimee N. White, MEd, Custom Evaluation Services, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

“This book's accessibility gives it a major advantage over many program evaluation texts, which tend to be dry and dense. For students new to program evaluation, readability is a major factor in comprehension, and will make them more likely to read the assigned chapters. The 'call-outs' with icons break up the text and add value to our understanding of evaluation by providing examples and exercises that bring the concepts, theories, and techniques to life.”

—John Klemanski, PhD, Department of Political Science, Oakland University

“This book reflects Podems's immense and deep understanding of the subject of evaluation. It comes at a time when evaluative thinking and action is necessary for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030. Written in an appealing, accessible style, the book is solidly rooted in the language and concepts of the research and evaluation community. It takes a pragmatic approach, dealing with real-world issues such as weak and poor data and conflicting values, to name a few. I highly recommend this book to evaluators, new and seasoned—it is a major contribution to the global discipline.”

—Indran A. Naidoo, PhD, Director, Independent Evaluation Office, United Nations Development Programme

“Podems takes a most pragmatic and practical approach—who else has thought of using dog and cat food, or a child’s colorful building blocks, to clarify evaluation terminology? What really makes this book stand apart from others is the rich discussion of being an evaluator and the values that confers. Rarely, if ever, do we get such rich detail on the personal, scholarly, and cultural side of evaluation.”

—Richard Caldwell, MS, Senior Program Officer, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Table of Contents

I. Doing Evaluation and Thinking Evaluatively

1. Speaking the Language

2. The Tale of the Researcher and Evaluator

3. Starting the Evaluative Journey

4. How We Know What We Know and Why We Think That

5. Data and Credibility: What Inquiring Evaluator Minds Need to Know

6. Linking Problem Statements, Interventions, and Results

7. All about Results

8. Talking Intervention Theory (and Logic)

9. Assessing and Evaluating Progress

10. Completing the Evaluation Journey: Pulling It All Together

II. Working as an Evaluator and Exploring Evaluation

11. The Personal Choices of Being an Evaluator

12. Thinking about Values

13. Thinking about Power, Politics, Culture, Language, and Context

14. The Scholarly Side of Being an Evaluator

15. Navigating the Maze of Evaluation Choices

16. The World of Recommendations

17. The Dirty Laundry Chapter


About the Author

Donna R. Podems, PhD, is Founder and Director of OtherWISE: Research and Evaluation, an evaluation consultancy in Cape Town, South Africa. She was Senior Research Fellow at Stellenbosch University for 10 years and is currently Senior Research Fellow at the University of Johannesburg and Assistant Professor at Michigan State University. Dr. Podems has served on the National Boards of the South African Monitoring and Evaluation Association and the American Evaluation Association (AEA), and is Chair of the AEA's International Working Group. She has edited a book on democratic evaluation and has written numerous articles and book chapters on feminist evaluation, process evaluation, principles-focused evaluation, systems evaluation, utilization-focused evaluation, democratic evaluation, and professionalizing of evaluation.


Applied researchers who do evaluations; administrators and funders who use evaluations in their work; graduate students and instructors in education, psychology, management, social work, nursing, and public policy.

Course Use

Will serve as a supplement or core book in graduate-level program evaluation courses.