Developmentally Appropriate Evaluations

In evaluation, one thing is clear: context matters. Many evaluators have described how the context of the program (e.g., age of program, type of program, feasibility) and the context of the evaluation (e.g., resources, stakeholder involvement, measurement tools) affect evaluation designs, methods, practices, and measures. However, evaluators have only begun to examine how the developmental context also affect how evaluators design and conduct evaluations. Specifically, how should the age of participants affect evaluations? 

This is particularly important to investigate because the American Evaluation Association (AEA)’s Guiding Principles for Evaluators, under the Respect for People principle, state that:

In a series of blog posts, I will take you through the existing research on this topic and my thesis project that further examined this area. Some blog posts you can expect to see include:

  1. What is the developmental context? And why is it important to evaluation?
  2. How cultural competence plays a role in developmentally appropriate evaluation
  3. Developmental appropriateness across an evaluation
  4. Are evaluators thinking of developmental appropriateness in their evaluations?

This series of blog posts will delve into my thesis topic. While you wait in eager anticipation, here is the abstract for my thesis proposal:

It is well-known that meaningful differences in cognitive, socioemotional, and physical development exist among children, adolescents, and adults. However, to what extent do evaluators actually adapt their designs, methods, practices, or measures to be responsive to a youth population? And, do these adaptations relate to evaluators’ experience with youth or training in child development? This study will use an experimental simulation in which 300 evaluators will be asked to design an evaluation of a hypothetical tutoring program that ranged according to participants’ ages: child, adolescent, or adult. Evaluators will respond to a series of questions to determine their choices in evaluation approach, design and methods. Specifically, if evaluators indicate they will collect data directly from program participants, evaluators will respond to questions designed to determine the extent to which their data collection procedures are developmentally appropriate. Differences in developmental appropriateness for two main data collection methods (i.e., surveys, interviews and focus groups) will be ascertained across condition (i.e., child, adolescent, or adult program participants), evaluator background characteristics (i.e., level of experience, highest degree obtained, evaluation role), and developmental expertise (i.e., experience in conducting evaluations of youth programs, knowledge of developmental theories and principles). It is expected that individuals with more experience with youth and more developmental expertise will better adapt data collection methods to be developmentally appropriate than individuals with less experience. These results would support the hypothesis that developmentally appropriate practice requires inclusion of developmental expertise on the evaluation team.

Do you have any questions about the topic or my thesis? If so, write a comment below!

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