A review of monitoring and evaluation theories
A theoretical approach to M&E can be described as a set of knowledge which helps understand the study and practice of M&E from several viewpoints (Waithera & Wanyoike, 2015). The proliferation or advancement of several evaluation theories can be attributed to the difficulty of earlier evaluation theories to respond to the initial mandates of evaluation needs (Smith, 1993) as well as the need to guide the evaluation practice (Carden & Alkin, 2012). The theory defines a body of knowledge that organizes, classifies, describes, predicts or helps in understanding and controlling a topic (Shadish, Cook &. Leviton, 1991). Theory can be prescriptive, thus a hypothesis of what ought to be done or a body of knowledge (Omonyo, 2015).
The evaluation theory
According to Shadish (1998), evaluation theory is the knowledge base of the evaluation profession and needs to be guarded seriously by all evaluation professionals. He further posits that evaluation theory is not concise or axiomatic and not a single theory but rather a collection of diverse theoretical writings held together by the common glue of having evaluation practice as their target. Evaluation theories can be very informative for initial needs assessment and programme design. Evaluation theory gives effective strategies for dealing with the challenges regarding the evaluation process. Lessons are learned about what doesn’t work which may save programme designers’ and evaluators’ time and resources (Donaldson, 2001). According to McCoy et al., (2005), evaluation theory compares the project impact with what was set to be achieved in the project plan, thereby assessing effectiveness in achieving project goals and in determining the relevance and sustainability of an ongoing project. Shapiro (2004) informs that two forms of evaluations exist, depending on when it is undertaken. These are formative and summative evaluations. Formative evaluation (interim or mid-term evaluation) is concerned more with efficient use of resources to produce outputs and focuses on strengths, weaknesses and challenges of the project and whether the continuous implementation of the project plan will be able to deliver the project objectives or whether it needs redesigning (Passia, 2006). A summative evaluation is undertaken at the end of the project and aims at determining how the project progressed and what went right and wrong and capturing any lessons learned.
Evaluation theory is geared towards guiding future projects by facilitating organizational learning through the documentation of good practices and errors. There are some critical factors that need consideration during evaluation. These include the use of relevant skills, sound methodology, adequate skilled personnel, financial resources and transparency to ensure the effectiveness and quality of M&E (Jones et al., 2009). Rogers (2008) suggests the use of multi-stakeholders’ dialogues in data collection, hypothesis testing and, in the intervention, to allow greater participation and recognize the differences that may arise. However, one of the limitations of evaluation theory is that for any evaluation process for projects to be successful, it must be done within a supportive institutional framework while being cognizant of “political” influence.
4.4.1 J The evaluation theory tree
The evaluation theory tree, as opined by Alkin and Christie (2004), described in detail (see Figure 4.1) the inputs of various early contributors, theorists and researchers to the theory of evaluation. The fulcrum around which evaluation has gained recognition are the social accountability, social inquiry and epistemology of evaluation which have been referred to as the root of evaluation (Carden & Alkin, 2012). Alkin and Christie (2004) and Carden and Alkin (2012) posit that the need for guidance on how evaluation should be done was prominent in the early years of the development of the evaluation field which saw prominent evaluators prescribing what they believed was the way to conduct the effective evaluation. The prescriptions on how the evaluation was to be conducted were referred to as theories while the prescriber assumed the title theorist. This, however, meant that such works had to have been fully developed and have stood the test of time before they could be recognized as a theory (Carden & Alkin, 2012; Omonyo, 2015).
The modified Carden and Alkin’s evaluation theory tree professes three main paradigms; they maintained that evaluators should consider the “user” of the evaluation effort, the methodology being used and the way in which the eval-nation data will be valued (Alkin &. Christie, 2004; Carden &. Alkin, 2012). However, the three branches are not independent of each other but rather they complement each other for a common purpose. The relationship between the branches presents an opportunity to utilise the strengths and opportunities of each approach as a complement for the best M&E practice (see Figure 4-1). The placement of theorists on the branches of the evaluation tree is influenced by the emphasis made by theorists in their works and their philosophies toward evalua-tion. A proposed additional evaluation perspective known as “context” defined the characteristics of the situation of the low- and middle-income countries
Figure 4-1 Modified evaluation theory tree.
Source: Adopted from Carden et al., 2012
Source: Adapted from Carden &. Allein, 2012
(LMIC) (Carden &. Alkin, 2012). The study, Evaluation Roots: An International Perspective, alluded to reasons that suggested the existing perspectives were the brainchild of North America, Australia, New Zealand and Europe and, as such, the evaluation field had developed based on the needs of these regions at the expense of other LMICs. The introduction of the “context” viewpoint was to ensure an international perspective of the theory tree (Carden & Alkin, 2012).
The study by Carden and Alkin (2012) revealed that several evaluation approaches are indigenous, adopted or adapted from North America and Europe into low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). The methodologies are placed on respective branches on the evaluation tree presented in Figure 41 as a modified evaluation tree. These are summarized and presented in Table 4.1.
184.108.40.206 Method perspective
The method branch is the central branch of the evaluation tree. This branch of evaluation is founded on the positivist social science paradigm which focuses on realising the objective truth about the causes and effects of programmes and concentrating on the generalisation of findings (Alkin &. Christie, 2004). This evaluation approach recognises the existence of research and therefore is guided by research methodology (Carden &. Alkin, 2012). Shadish et al. (1991) and Katz, Newton, Shona, &. Raven (2016) further advance that the theorist on the method branch of the evaluation tree is focused on rigorous knowledge construction within the evaluation constraints and holds that reality exists independent of the observer and that the distance from the object of study helps avoid bias. Notable among methodological theorists is Cook whose work in the year 2000 indicated that evaluators who used qualitative methods could not establish causality between the observed outcome and the project itself since causality can only be established through experimental design (Omonyo, 2015). It is acknowledged among theorists that Tyler’s work in the 1940s on the theoretical views as well as his attention on educational measurement was very prominent. Other renowned theorists whose work advanced methodological perspective in the evaluation included Peter Rossi, Thomas Cock, Donald Campbell and Edward Suchman. The objective of the method perspective of the evaluation theory tree emphasises effective M&E data collection and the utilisation of data to generate knowledge for management use.
220.127.116.11 Value perspective
The value branch of evaluation is theoretically founded on the constructivist paradigm which suggests that reality is socially constructed and that knowledge is also created by our own experiences (Mertens & Wilson, 2012). The value approach is positioned to the right side of the method branch and advances that the essence of evaluation is to facilitate value judgement and, as such, much emphasis is placed on the value of their findings in making judgements through the appropriate evaluation of outcomes (Carden & Alkin, 2012; Christie & Alkin, 2013). Micheál Scriven is noted to have led this perspective with his work in 1967 which largely proclaimed that evaluation without valuing is not evaluation (Carden & Alkin, 2012). Therefore, it is essential for evaluation to assess value objectively (Stufflebeam & Coryn, 2014). Theorists such as Robert Stake greatly influenced the value perspective. Omonyo (2015) asserts that the writing by Stakes in 1975 inspired evaluators to attend to actual programme activities rather than intents and presented different value perspectives when reporting on the success and failure of a project. The value paradigm argues the need to focus on project activities during M&E. Ensuring that activities scheduled receive the needed attention calls for the right representation of the stakeholders during the M&E who are equipped with the right technical capacity. The value branch was subsequently split into the objective and subjective sub-branches.
4-4.1.4 Use perspective
Finally, the use branch is located at the left of the method branch of the evaluation theory tree (see Figure 4.1). Alkin and Christie (2004) postulate that the use branch focused on how and who will use the evaluation findings. Theorist Stufflebeam is well-known as leading the crusade regarding the “use” paradigm. His work was primarily oriented toward management, decision and accountability and was based on the context, input, process and product (C1PP) model. This group of theorists was referred to as decision-driven and they placed much emphasis on conducting an evaluation to assist key programme stakeholders in
Theories of monitoring and evaluation 59 programme decision-making (Katz et al., 2016). Patton’s utilisation-focused evaluation model in 2008 is a classic example of works which focused less on the various methods used in the evaluation and rather more on the utility of the evaluation, stressing that evaluations should be designed to achieve findings that can be used by policy-makers to develop and improve policies and programmes (Katz et al., 2016). Originally, theorists on this branch focused on those individuals who were contracted to undertake evaluation and those empowered to use the information but this has been expanded to include a broader user audience and to evaluation capacity-building within the organization being evaluated (Alkin &. Christie, 2004; Carden & Alkin, 2012). Patton’s need for effective utilization of evaluation findings in decision- and policy-making resulted in the development of standards to ensure that evaluation findings are reliable and influence decisions for improvement. These he outlines as utility (ensure relevance and use); feasibility (realistic, prudent, diplomatic and frugal); propriety (ethical, legal and respectful) and accuracy (technically adequate to determine merit or worth) (Patton, 2008).