Assignment # 2 Direction--Pick one program in CU Engage: What do you see as the key components of the theory of action? What ideas do you have for this program to help the team with an evaluation issue they raised? Identify the issue and how you would approach it.
The Weiss (1997) article about "Which Links in Which Theories" was particularly valuable for helping me examine this prompt. According to Weiss, Theory-based evaluation (TBE) offers many advantages to the evaluator who conducts the study and the program individuals who receive the
results. It helps to specify not only the what of program outcomes but also the how and the why.
When thinking about CU Dialogues, I immediately begin to ponder about the links between what programs assume their activities are accomplishing and what actually happens at each small step along the way during the execution of the program.
When brainstorming the goals of program evaluation for this case, I would suggest interviewing the relevant stakeholders (program designers, developers, administrators, volunteer speakers, faculty and students who have participate and students who hope to participate. It could be valuable to see competing, conflicting and converging assumptions about the theories for what the goals, purposes and implementation of the program is--- and whether or not all stakeholders are on the same page about that. I would suggest these earlier conversations to help narrow priority theories of evaluation already present.
Based on reading about the CU Dialogues program and participating in it as a facilitator---- my current understandings are that the targeted client are undergraduate students who with a goal to help foster, facilitate and encourage delicate discussions on a sensitive or heavily complicated topics in a fairly homogeneous student population by race and socio-economical status. One a faculty has submitted a formal request for facilitators for the CU Dialogues program, an program administrator works to partner and logistically arrange potential guest speakers. Guest speakers come to class and sit among students, while the facilitator with CU Dialogues helps lead the conversation with an emphasis on encouraging open critical thinking, sharing and questioning in a respectful manner.
Yet it would be interesting to see the different of theories operating amongst guest speakers, CU Dialogues administrators, faculty and student participants. I gather the theory operating with CU Dialogues is that by facilitating/modeling/enaging undergraduates in this process during a class discuss---that they may internalize the implicit and explicit critical yet respectful dialogue skills utlized in a conversation with adult guest speakers and undergrad students.
It would be the goal of the evaluators to dig to uncover any implicit assumptions about the purposes and execution and rationale of the program amongst all key stakeholders. This could be done through some initial meetings, focus groups, surveys or team level focus groups. Once there is clarity about the program theories that are or are assumed to be operating, there can be a consensus practice to investigate several theories while being conscious of time, resources and other project evaluation parameters.
Based on readings from the book "Learning to Improve", I would also give careful thought to what we are expecting the facilitators roles in CU dialogues to be, and what behaviors we're hoping for students to embody and practice, in which spaces, while thinking about their psycho-social emotional motivations behind the goals CU Dialogues has for the clients/youth/student populations. Perhaps some of the suggested tools such as fishbone diagram, program improvement maps and driver diagrams could be selected to help with initial conversations to get a sense of the theories operating amongst stakeholders about the program's program, process and successes.