Who teaches and learns in an evaluation?

FAO evaluation

Who teaches and learns in an evaluation?

The article by Gadotti entitled the “Global Impact of Freire’s Pedagogy” is a good read. The paper is in the 155th issue of New Directions for Evaluation – “Pedagogy of Evaluation” edited by Michael Quinn Patton, the articles here highlight the contribution of Brazilian Paulo Freire in the field of education and evaluation. I was not familiar with the work of Freire, much less his famous book Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970/2000). The articles in this issue really enticed me to look it up.  It also gave me a bird's-eye viewand whetted my appetite for Freire’s work.

This article gave me a chance to reflect on how we, as evaluation practitioners engage the contributors to and users of evaluations. This is very timely because the Asia Pacific Evaluation Association 2019 Conference is just around the corner, to be held in Manila on February 25 2019. Also, our office, FAO’s Office of Evaluation is hosting a pre-conference workshop entitledThe evaluation is for you! Increasing evaluation utilization and ownership through stakeholder engagement by way of workshops, knowledge management, and Eval ForwARD” which shares a common theme.

In the paper, Gadotti mentioned that the traditional way of thinking is that project implementers are seen as learners, deliverers, and consumers of ready-made information and not as knowledge producers. In this regard, evaluation is seen as something that is applied to the project implementers, not something done with them.  The Freirean approach to education could be used in viewing evaluation – as evaluation is as much a learning process equally as it is an accountability exercise. Given this similarity of education and evaluation, Gadotti summarised some lessons for evaluators from Freire’s work. I have quoted some of them below and offered some of my insights:

1. “Reason and emotions are interconnected.” Knowledge is a product of the constant balancing act of human’s reasoning and emotions. Evaluation itself is a knowledge-generating practice. When we conduct a discussion, we see how some interviewees become passionate about certain topics, issues, and results. The generation of knowledge in evaluation is a social exercise, and we as evaluators should be conscious of this.

2. “Knowledge (evaluation) is emancipatory.” This brings to mind how we as evaluators become the receptacle of sensitive information. How we encourage participants of evaluation to speak their mind, give us their trust that we will keep sensitive information confidential, but at the same time use this knowledge in our analysis. This to me is highlights how liberating evaluation can be.

3. “There is no teaching without learning, and no learning without teaching.” This is the central theme of stakeholder engagement. If evaluator and evaluand see themselves as teachers and learners, then the tools they use should also be able to support this idea. Hence, workshops and other forms of evaluation practices that promote two-way learning are important.

4. “Interdisiplinarity is essential because it is true to the nature of the world.” This brings to mind how important it is to bring together various stakeholders in evaluations. How diverse opinions and reasons can bring about knowledge. 

5.  “Meaningful pedagogy (or the process of evaluating) is meaningful to daily living.” To do justice to this idea, I have to directly quote Ganotti “To educate and educate oneself is always to impregnate what we do in our daily lives with meaning. It is to understand and to transform the world: to share more than knowledge and ideas, but to share the heart. In a violent society such as ours, we need to educate for understanding, for tenderness, for compassion and solidarity.”