Metaevaluation revisited, by Michael Scriven

An Editorial in Journal of MultiDisciplinary Evaluation, Volume 5, Number 11, January 2009

In this short and readable paper Michael Scriven addresses “three categories of issues that arise about meta-evaluation: (i) exactly what is it; (ii) how is it justified; (iii) when and how should it be used? In the following, I say something about all three—definition, justification, and application.” He then makes seven main points, each of which he elaborates on in some detail:

  1. Meta-evaluation is the consultant’s version of peer review.
  2. Meta-evaluation is the proof that evaluators believe what they say.
  3. In meta-evaluation, as in  all evaluation, check the pulse before trimming the nails.
  4. A partial meta-evaluation is better than none.
  5. Make the most of meta-evaluation.
  6. Any systematic approach to evaluation—in other words, almost any kind of professional evaluation—automatically provides a systematic basis for meta-evaluation.
  7. Fundamentally, meta-evaluation, like evaluation, is simply an extension of common sense—and that’s the first defense to use against the suggestion that it’s some kind of fancy academic embellishment.


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