EPISODE 12

Ethics in Evaluation: A General Overview

CONTRIBUTOR

Emma Bloom
Maryiotti Johnson
Airkeria Knight
Tameka Thomas

>> Hi everyone, this is Maryiotti

 

>> And Airkeria

 

>> And we're here today to talk to you about ethics and program evaluation and why it is such an important concept to master for evaluators. For starters, I'll give everyone a short definition of ethics. Ethics is defined as the moral principle that govern a person's behavior or the conducting of an activity.

 

>> Thanks for that, but I might add according to CFAR, personal ethics will help an individual decide between right and wrong actions. And a good rule of thumb is that the relationship between the evaluator and study participants should also be characterized by honesty, truth, and respect.

 

>> As you can imagine, without standards, each evaluator might conduct themselves in a different way. That is why both the Canadian Evaluation Society and the American Evaluation Association have put forth standards regarding ethics and evaluation. I'll start by discussing the similarities between the two. Both discuss the importance of integrity and competence, as well as the importance that evaluators display honesty and integrity in their own behavior and throughout the evaluation process.

 

A biased and impartial evaluator could greatly influence the results of a study and therefore damage any credibility the results could have.

 

>> Okay, so to pretty much kinda like break down what Mary has said, in layman's terms evaluators and their teams need to be sensitive to people of other cultures. But aside from cultural competence, evaluators must also consider the diverse interests and values of the general public. As program evaluation, typically involved collecting sensitive information or data from different populations.

 

So therefore, an ethically grounded evaluation works to protect the rights of all study participants.

 

>> Exactly, there is no point in conducting the evaluation if the person conducting the evaluation itself is manipulating the results or otherwise biased. The guidelines combat any potential bias by outlining that an evaluator discloses any potential conflict of interest, very important. They also state that evaluators should apply systematic methods to the evaluation.

 

Again, trying to remove any potential bias that may exist.

 

>> That makes sense, but what do the guidelines have to say about competence?

 

>> In short, that evaluators are competent in the provision of services. That means that the evaluation team has the knowledge, skill, and ability necessary to perform the evaluation. The guidelines also state that evaluators should continuously strive to improve their competencies. Lastly, guidelines state that evaluators demonstrate cultural competence.

 

For those listening that are unfamiliar, cultural competence is the ability of an individual to use skills to respect the values and acknowledge the principles of other cultures for the purpose of enhancing interactions.

 

>> Hmm that's interesting, but so in layman's terms, evaluators and their teams need to be sensitive to people of other cultures. But aside from the cultural competence aspect of things, according to CFAR, evaluators must consider the diverse interests and values of the general public. As program evaluation does involve collecting sensitive information or data from different populations.

 

So an ethically grounded evaluation works to protect the rights of all study participants.

 

>> Yes, exactly. Imagine the difficulty an evaluator could have trying to engage a family to participate in a phone survey. If they insulted them in the first minute of the call, things won't go well after that.

 

>> You mentioned that these were some of the similarities between the two evaluation associations. Is there anything else?

 

>> Yes, the American Evaluation Association has also included systematic inquiry, respect for people, and responsibilities for general and public welfare in their guidelines.

 

>> Well, I think we can all figure out what respect for people. But can you tell me about the other two principles?

 

>> Yes, respect for people is just what you think it is. Evaluators should respect the security, dignity, and self worth of respondents, program participants, clients, and other evaluation stakeholders. They all matter. Systematic inquiry stipulates that evaluators comply with the highest technical standards and therefore inform the client of any potential weakness in strength of evaluation questions and approaches.

 

An evaluator should also paint an overall picture of the methods or approaches any limitation. In short they must be truthful.

 

>> Okay, well let's do a really quick recap just to summarize everything. Just to kinda make sure everyone understands. So the evaluator must be honest with the client regarding any shortcomings or any strengths of the evaluation design, methods, or questions, correct?

 

>> That's exactly right. The last tenet of the American Evaluation Association is responsibility for general and public welfare. It says that evaluators must take into account the diversity of general or public interest. What that translates to is insuring that all perspectives are considered, not just my own, not just my belief, but all perspectives are considered.

 

Not just the organization requesting the evaluation but also the other pertinent stakeholders such as the clients. It also suggests that the evaluator take into account public interest and consider the impact of evaluation to society as a whole.

 

>> That last part sounds like a large responsibility.

 

>> It could be, depending on the type of study that an organization was asking an evaluator to complete, or what the organization was wanting to study. Well, that's it, folks. We look forward to hearing from you during our next discussion on ethics in program evaluation. This is Kiara and Mary.

 

And as always we ask you to do the right thing.