Evaluation, or just data collection?

I’ve been thinking a lot about evaluation over the past few years, partly because I’m involved in the evaluation working group of one of the projects I’m involved in, OPAL, but mainly because it was the focus of my PhD research (see a light-hearted summary here). One of the big questions that kept coming up for me, is what is evaluation? And how does it differ from monitoring and data collection? Through my research I realised that practitioners, people ‘on the ground’ conducting evaluations for their projects, sometimes have very different perceptions of what evaluation is, compared to ‘professional’ or ‘expert’ evaluators (see my paper “Evaluation, or just data collection…” here (if you can’t get access, contact me via the comments section for a copy)). Sometimes it appears that data is collected but never actually used to help  improve projects, learn from experiences, or even monitor whether the project is achieving all the things practitioners want or intended it to achieve…..

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Practitioners involved in my PhD research mentioned lots of barriers to effective evaluation, the main one being lack of time! What are your experiences? Please discuss below if you wish.

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