Action Research in Evaluation Practice

Participatory evaluation strategies have a lot in common with the complexity, diversity, and specificity of action research approaches in general. PE, though a form of practice in its own right, builds directly on work from AR, and many of the authors refer directly to particular AR works as part of their intellectual repertoire. AR approaches have made significant contributions to this field by opening up the notion of evaluation to collaborative and participatory approaches. Patton ( 1997) makes several references to AR, but he never inte­grates it into his conceptualization.

It seems to us that evaluation modeled on AR has only recently had a sig­nificant impact. For example, Finne, Levin, and Nilssen (1995) call one recent AR evaluation development “trailing research.” Here participatory approaches to evaluation are synthesized directly out of an AR process. The central idea of this process is to establish a continued engagement with stakeholders through­out the whole program period. The evaluators, jointly with stakeholders, decide on issues to evaluate. Then the research team usuaily collects relevant data and makes some preliminary analyses, and the stakeholders are involved in the sense-making processes. Out of this mutual learning process emerge redesigned actions implemented in the ongoing program to attain goals or to redirect the program toward new goals. This work is later foilowed by report­ing from a formative evaluation where AR-like practices have been employed (Rolfsen & Torvatn, 2005).

Action research has also been used as an approach to evaluation of educa­tional institutions. King (1998) provides an example of this type of work. It is, however, remarkable how little these approaches to evaluation are built on a well-grounded understanding of AR.

Source: Greenwood Davydd J., Levin Morten (2006), Introduction to Action Research: Social Research for Social Change, SAGE Publications, Inc; 2nd edition.

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