Theory E²: Working with Entrepreneurs in Closely-Held Enterprises: XIII. Assessment in the Enterprise Cycle (Part Two)
The first feature in any program evaluation, according to Michael Scriven (1991. p. 205), is the identification of the program unit(s) being evaluated. He suggests that this identification should be based in a comprehensive description of the program being evaluated. Thus, program description is always the first element of an assessment. It is also one of the final elements, for any final evaluation report will typically contain a description of the program being evaluated. Consequently, there is little need to spend much time advocating the importance of or identifying procedures for the description of a program. Nevertheless, most program descriptions can be improved. Given the importance of dissemination, one must be certain not only that information about the program is accurate and complete, but also that other people understand the program description.
Scriven (1991, pp. 121-122) suggests that a successful program description is something more than just the labeling of program components. We would propose that an appreciative approach to program assessment also requires something more than a cursory classification or labeling of a program. It requires that the distinctive and most salient features of the program be identified and carefully described. A program description often serves as a guidebook for successful program replication if it has been prepared in an appreciative manner. It also often probes into the true function and meaning of a specific program.
Edward Kelly (1977) takes description and appreciative evaluation a step further in suggesting that one of the most important purposes of an evaluation is the provision of sufficient depiction or reconstruction of complicated social realities. Those people who are not present when an event occurs should have a valid and useful understanding of what it must have been like to be there. Kelly notes (Ost, 1977, pp. 1011):
A portrayal is, literally, an effort to compare a rendering of an object or set of circumstances. . . . Portrayal evaluation is the process of vividly capturing the complexity of social truth. Things change depending on the angle from which they are viewed: multiple renderings or multiple portrayals are intended to capture the complexity of what has occurred.
In order to prepare an accurate description of a program, it is necessary not only to trace the history and context of the program and describe its central activities and/or products, but also to provide a portrait of the program (brief descriptions, quotations, paraphrases, and observations). What was it like being a student in this course? What did a typical employee do on a daily basis as a result of this personnel policy change? What was it like to walk into the office where this program was being administered? How has this program affected the life of a specific manager in this corporation?