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Book Review   |    
Annette M. Matthews
Psychiatric Services 2006; doi:
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E. Jane Davidson, Ph.D.; Thousand Oaks, Sage Publications, 2005, 280 pages, $37.95 softcover

Dr. Matthews is affiliated with Oregon Health and Science University, Portland.

With the rise of evidence-based medicine practices in mental health, a greater and greater need for both practitioners and administrators to understand and apply evaluation procedures will also arise. Evaluation Methodology Basics is a concise monograph from Sage Publications dedicated to teaching the basic concepts and techniques of program evaluation.

E. Jane Davidson is a former associate director of the Evaluation Center at Western Michigan University. She has published extensively in the literature on program evaluation. She bases her methods heavily on the work of other well-known authors in the field of evaluation, including Michael Scriven, Carol Weiss, and Michael Quinn Patton.

This book takes a nuts-and-bolts approach to program evaluation. It begins with several introductory chapters that describe a framework into which evaluations can be organized. The underlying framework that is used is Scriven's Key Evaluation Checklist. It also defines many of the basic concepts about what types of judgments and conclusions can be made during an evaluation and how to proceed systematically in making those choices.

To this end, several potentially sensitive topics are discussed. Dr. Davidson notes that "evaluation" contains the word "value" and that there is overt and covert value determination throughout an evaluation process.

Dr. Davidson has an extensive chapter on strategies that can be used to determine the importance of a particular component of an evaluation. Strategies for determining importance include having stakeholders vote on importance, drawing on the knowledge of selected stakeholders, using evidence from the literature, using specialist judgment, using evidence from the needs or values assessments, and using program theory and evidence of causal relationships. She points out that it is probably best not to rely on any one of these methods because the more methods that are used the more defensible the conclusions made from them will be.

As new concepts are introduced in the book, the appropriate part of Scriven's Key Evaluation Checklist is revisited. Both the chapters on the determining of importance and merit have very interesting ways of ranking and organizing these factors and providing ideas of ways in which evaluation data can be communicated to participants and other interested parties. At the end of each chapter is a list of additional vocabulary, some additional selected readings that could be used to supplement a graduate course, and brief exercises that provoke further thinking about the decision making involved in program evaluation.

Evaluation Methodology Basics is yet another excellent book from Sage. This would be a good book to use for a graduate-level course in evaluation techniques or as a template for anyone who is new to the techniques of program evaluation.




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