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Fourth -generation evaluation, however, involves evaluations that are negotiated co-creations of social reality. The basic, underlying method used for fourth-generation evaluation goes by a variety of names.
British scholars call it "human inquiry" inquiry conducted in humane ways, for humane ends ; American scholars call it "action research" research which aims to produce action on or through it findings , and third world or developmental evaluators call it "developmental evaluation" evaluation which develops the understanding, and resources to respond, of those evaluated.
A common generic term for it is "collaborative inquiry" which simply describes what goes on when you use the method.
In collaborative inquiry, those being investigated or evaluated participate as informed collaborators not as research "subjects". The investigators, too, are under scrutiny. The goal is deepened understanding, for all concerned, of the issue--one about which all parties share a concern that becomes deeper as the evaluation progresses. Fourth-generation evaluators are relativists, and their methodology is, essentially, qualitative.
But the evaluation is conducted in a most disciplined manner and produces an audit trail to ensure the credibility of its findings or recommendations. The realities initially discovered by constructivist inquiry are constructions of their reality which the evaluees themselves put forward. These develop into co-constructions, then reconstructions, as they are shaped by both evaluees and evaluators.
Maintaining distance between evaluators and evaluees is impossible: everyone interacts, explains, argues, interprets. Investigation proceeds via a hermeneutic dialectic: the evaluators help the evaluees focus their constructions of reality and are responsive to evaluee concerns, criticisms and suggestions.
The goal is mutual education, deepened awareness and heightened motivation to act upon the results of the evaluation.
As post-positivist value-pluralists, their focus is: " Whose are the values and methods which shape the evaluation? Neither is the choice of positivist methodology, when what's involved is human inquiry into such intersubjective "facts" as constructions of social reality.
We are socialized to think of validity, for instance, in positivist terms. So discussions of the "goodness" or "quality" of results, as criteria of their "trustworthiness," simply are not taken seriously. Their master diagram on this method--the hermeneutic dialectic--occurs on page Diagrams are rare in this book, a fact which causes this one to stand out in high relief.
Close reading of the text, with constant reference to the diagram, should provide a good understanding of what's involved.
What cannot be gained from this book, good as it is, is a felt sense of the power, and of the costs, of this methodology. Such a sense comes only from experience.
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As to its power, the first time that you conduct one of these unstructured, in-depth constructivist interviews with a collaborator, going by the rules so that it works, usually proves to be an unforgettably exhilarating experience. The involvement of your collaborators in the evaluation, and their commitment to it, have likewise to be experienced to be believed.
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As to the costs of the methodology, experience is needed for appreciation of them, too. This is not a methodology for anyone who is set in his or her beliefs. You will grow in understanding, and this growth is often painful.
After all, the reason we don't hear in the sense, "take to heart" what people are trying to tell us is generally because it's painful for us to do so. We wish to acknowledge the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for their financial support through the Aid to Scholarly Journals Program.
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Fourth Generation Evaluation
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