Fundamental Issues in Evaluation

Edited by Nick L. Smith and Paul R. Brandon

October 26, 2007
ISBN 9781593853426
Price: $45.00 $33.75
266 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"

Providing state-of-the-art perspectives on what evaluation is, its purpose, and how to ensure it is done well, this book brings together major evaluation researchers from a variety of social and behavioral science disciplines. Each chapter identifies a fundamental issue facing the field today; considers its implications for theory, method, practice, or the profession; and explores one or more approaches to dealing with the issue. Among the topics addressed are the nature of expertise in evaluation, how to build a better evidence base for evaluation theory, promoting cultural competence in evaluation, how to synthesize evaluation research findings, ways to involve stakeholders in decision making, and much more.

“Offers a significant contribution to the literature which explores the nature and importance of recurring issues in evaluation....Examines issues and concerns that continue to face the evaluation field today, as they have historically, and examines them in a balanced and comprehensive manner. The book achieves its aim of exploring the nature and importance of fundamental issues, and their impact on evaluation, theory, method, practice, and the profession.”

Drug and Alcohol Review

“For a while now, I have been searching for a book to help me reshape and reorganize my introductory program evaluation course for graduate students in our Policy and Leadership program. Fundamental Issues in Evaluation is exactly what I need. I can organize my course around the structure of the book and its categorization of fundamental issues, framing evaluation as theory, method, practice, and profession. Even more important, the chapters offer engaging perspectives that boldly question traditional stances on evaluation in each of the categories. I thank Smith and Brandon for giving me both the structure and the critical content that I've been looking for.”

—Sharon F. Rallis, EdD, Dwight W. Allen Distinguished Professor of Education Policy and Reform, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

“Evaluation is a very young and fast-growing discipline that has developed and adapted through constant reflection on its purposes and methods. The contributors to this volume have accelerated this ongoing process of reassessment. They have made the key issues facing evaluators explicit and tangible, and have provided theoretical and practical lenses through which evaluation professionals can envision and engage in productive conversations about their roles and approaches.”

—Lorna M. Earl, Co-founder, International Centre for Educational Change, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Canada

“A first-rate examination of theories, methods, and practices in contemporary evaluation, this book is a necessity for the library of any professional evaluator and is equally valuable for graduate study. It offers outstanding consideration of enduring, important questions surrounding stakeholder involvement, diverse participation, social justice, and appropriate methodologies. Chapter authors are writing 'at the top of their game,' and almost every chapter is clear, eloquent, and about the best statement one could find on the issues. Smith and Brandon have brought together a timely book of enormous value, one that will join other classics in our field. Treat yourself to excellence and get a copy today!”

—Lois-Ellin Datta, President, Datta Analysis, Waikoloa, Hawaii

Table of Contents

1. Fundamental Issues in Evaluation, Nick L. Smith

I. Issues of Theory

2. The Relevance of Practical Knowledge Traditions to Evaluation Practice, Thomas A. Schwandt

3. Stakeholder Representation in Culturally Complex Communities: Insights from the Transformative Paradigm, Donna M. Mertens

II. Issues of Method

4. Multiple Threats to the Validity of Randomized Studies, Judith A. Droitcour and Mary Grace Kovar

5. Research Synthesis: Toward Broad-Based Evidence, Susan N. Labin

6. Building a Better Evidence Base for Evaluation Theory: Beyond General Calls to a Framework of Types of Research on Evaluation, Melvin M. Mark

III. Issues of Practice

7. Complexities in Setting Program Standards in Collaborative Evaluation, J. Bradley Cousins and Lyn M. Shulha

8. Building Evaluation Recommendations for Improvement: Insights from Student Formative Assessments, Carlos C. Ayala and Paul R. Brandon

IV. Issues of the Profession

9. What Is the Difference between Evaluation and Research—and Why Do We Care?, Sandra Mathison

10. The Impact of Narrow Views of Scientific Rigor on Evaluation Practices for Underrepresented Groups, Elmima C. Johnson, Karen E. Kirkhart, Anna Marie Madison, Grayson B. Noley, and Guillermo Solano-Flores

11. Improving the Practice of Evaluation through Indigenous Values and Methods: Decolonizing Evaluation Practice—Returning the Gaze from Hawai‘i and Aotearoa, Alice J. Kawakami, Kanani Aton, Fiona Cram, Morris K. Lai, and Laurie Porima

About the Editors

Nick L. Smith is Professor in the School of Education at Syracuse University and a past president of the American Evaluation Association. The primary focus of his writings is the nature of applied field research and evaluation methods, and the theory of evaluation.
Paul R. Brandon is Professor of Education and Director of the Program Research and Evaluation Office at Curriculum Research and Development Group, University of Hawai`i at Manoa. His current scholarly interests include the evaluation of program implementation and standard setting in evaluations.


Kanani Aton is a private consultant who coordinates a statewide collaboration to improve outcomes for Native Hawaiian students.

Carlos C. Ayala is Associate Professor of Science Education and Assessment at Sonoma State University.

Paul R. Brandon is Professor of Education and Director of the Program Research and Evaluation Office at the Curriculum Research and Development Group, University of Hawai'i at Manoa.

J. Bradley Cousins is Professor of Educational Administration at the Faculty of Education, University of Ottawa, Canada.

Fiona Cram, Ngati Kahungunu (indigenous tribe of New Zealand), is Director of Katoa Ltd., a small research and evaluation company.

Judith A. Droitcour is Assistant Director, Center for Evaluation Methods and Issues, U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Elmima C. Johnson is Senior Staff Associate and Program Director at the National Science Foundation.

Alice J. Kawakami is Associate Professor of Education at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa and one of three founders of the Institute for Native Pacific Education and Culture.

Karen E. Kirkhart is Professor, School of Social Work, College of Human Services and Health Professions, Syracuse University.

Mary Grace Kovar is a consultant to the National Opinion Research Center.

Susan N. Labin is an independent consultant with 20 years of evaluation experience in various substantive areas.

Morris K. Lai is an educational associate with Curriculum Research and Development Group, University of Hawai'i at Manoa.

Anna Marie Madison is Associate Professor, Human Services, College of Public and Community Service at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

Melvin M. Mark is Professor of Psychology at Pennsylvania State University.

Sandra Mathison is Professor of Education at the University of British Columbia, Canada.

Donna M. Mertens is Professor of Educational Research and Foundations at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC.

Grayson B. Noley is Chair of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Oklahoma.

Laurie Porima, Ngati Manawa (indigenous tribe of New Zealand) is Director of LLE Research Ltd., a research and evaluation company.

Thomas A. Schwandt is Professor of Education at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Distinguished University Teacher/Scholar.

Lyn M. Shulha is Director of the Assessment and Evaluation Group, Queen's University at Kingston, Canada.

Nick L. Smith is Professor in the Program in Instructional Design, Development, and Evaluation, School of Education, Syracuse University.

Guillermo Solano-Flores is Associate Professor of Bilingual Education and English as a Second Language at the School of Education of the University of Colorado at Boulder.


Students and researchers in education, psychology, social work, sociology, management, and nursing.

Course Use

Serves as a core or supplemental text in graduate-level courses in program evaluation and applied social research.