What is evaluative thinking? Kicking-off the next 4 weeks of Theme Thursdays

Evaluation is a powerful tool to help organizations understand what’s happening, learn about what’s working or not, where improvements can be made, and to demonstrate impact. Some organizations might want to develop the skills to carry out an evaluation in-house, while others decide to hire external evaluators. Whichever path is best for each organization, or whatever the field of work, I think developing our capacity to use evaluative thinking in our work can be very helpful. So what is it?

Evaluative thinking is cultivating the habit to be curious, identify assumptions, ask questions, take time out for reflection and let that reflection guide future action. Questions that can help us do this:

  • How do we know?
  • What evidence do we have?
  • What are some alternative explanations?
  • What assumptions are we making?
  • What information do we need to make an informed decision?

Over the next 4 weeks, I’d like to share a bit more about evaluative thinking. If this is a practice your curious about developing, or already use, please join the conversation and share your questions and experiences.

1 Like

I came across this article, Three Questions for Evaluative Thinking, that suggests another group of questions that I think are also really helpful. It isn’t too long, so check it out.

To summarize:

  1. What’s going on? This is about paying attention and being curious.

  2. What’s new? Helps us build on the previous question by identifying anything that’s changing. Some changes may be so small that they are easy to miss unless we pause and look for them.

  3. What does it mean? This is about making sense of what we’ve learned from the two questions above. Tip: ask this from different perspectives (staff, community members, clients, etc.) - the meaning might be quite different depending on who you ask.

Thanks Stacey for sharing this instructive article. Patrick