Evaluation as a meta-discipline

by Hans on 2005/03/21

In recent discussions and readings I’ve been doing, an idea seems to be recurring: evaluation is meta-discipline. This concept isn’t something that’s new to me, as I was initially trained by Dr. Anita Myers in program evaluation during my time at the University of Waterloo. We were taught that evaluation is embedded within a context and that it draws from many other disciplines to conduct the evaluation act itself.

In recent years, I seem to have forgotten about this idea, focussing instead on the trans-disciplinary nature of ehealth (i.e., medical, technical, and social sciences). My research has been about applying evaluation techniques and principles and using ehealth as my “content” area. Perhaps my real specialty has always been evaluation. Maybe I need to revive this idea in my current research. I mean some of the twists and nuances of my specific research may not be unique to ehealth alone. Maybe there are some hints from other fields that I could draw upon.

After describing my research, someone said “oh, you’re doing a critical-interpretive evaluation study”. I was like “uhhh…yeah”, as I wasn’t (and still am not) sure what that means. I gather that critical refers to examining some of the inherent social/power relationships between different groups of people and the interpretive component is from the constructivist notions suggested by Guba and Lincoln (Fourth Generation Evaluation). But what do the two combined mean? That’s another discussion altogether.

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