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Leading Change Through Evaluation

Leading Change Through Evaluation
Improvement Science in Action

October 2021 | 176 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
Evaluators who are interested in developing or improving a program or policy frequently look to formative evaluation as a guiding framework. This book shows why those hoping to use evaluation to drive change in complex systems, rather than develop or improve one program, policy, or product, need to shift from the oversimplified idea of formative evaluation to a more specified continuous improvement model grounded in improvement science. In doing so, author Kristen L. Rohanna provides guidance to both evaluators and others, such as K-12 educators or hospital administrators, who lead improvement initiatives in their organizations and seek to solve persistent problems of practice. The book includes an extended case study: a networked improvement community of five public middle and high schools. 

"[This] book is a valuable contribution to the evaluation field, especially to graduate students and evaluators interested in learning the concepts of improvement science, evaluation capacity-building, and other approaches as well as details of how to put these evaluation approaches into practice.”--American Journal of Evaluation

Series Editor Introduction
Foreword by Louis Gomez
About the Author
Part 1 • Seeking Change in a Complex World
Chapter 1 • What Do We Mean by Formative Evaluation?
The Evolution of Formative Evaluation

Continuous Improvement and Improvement Science

Other Continuous Improvement Approaches


Chapter 2 • The Truth About Complex Systems
Systems and Complexity Science

Learning Your Way Through Problems

Multiple and Inclusive Perspectives: The Need for Embracing

Actors Within the System

Building Capacity for Participatory Approaches


Part 2 • The Case Study
Introducing the Case Study

The Challenge

Case Study Conceptual Framework

Chapter 3 • The Beginnings of a Network
Building the Network Hub Team

Building the Rest of the Team

Recruiting the Network Schools

Launching the Network

Our Own Challenge: Decision to Separate From the Larger Network


Chapter 4 • The Re-Launch
Seeking the Counsel of Others

Developing the Network’s Theory of Improvement

Taking Action Through PDSAs

The Network’s Outcome, End of Year 1


Chapter 5 • A Tale of Two Visions - Building Individual Capacity
The Math Instructional Vision (Subject Knowledge)

The Vision for Building Improvement Science Capacity (Profound Knowledge)

The Network’s Initial Improvement Science Capacity

The Two Visions Intersect


Chapter 6 • The Importance of Being Structured - Building Organizational Capacity
Organizational Capacity

Individual Versus Organizational Capacity

Network Structures


Chapter 7 • Not All Learning Is Created Equal - Fostering Transformational Organizational Learning
The Learnings Generated During Year 1

The Importance of Reflective Structures for Single- and Double-Loop Learning

Intentionally Designing Activities to Foster Double-Loop Learning


Chapter 8 • Lessons and Reflections From a Case Study
Lessons From Research and Practice: Findings From the Case Study

Lessons From Continued Practice: Additional Reflections

Bringing It All Together: Learning From Astronauts, Elephants, Einstein, and Teachers

Moving Forward in a Complex World

Appendix: Case Study Methodology

Case Study Design


Leading Change Through Evaluation [provides] detailed description of how evaluation theories were implemented and tools from different fields were integrated with a specific context. It highlights the interpersonal and intrapersonal skills needed to translate and navigate the application of evaluation approaches in the real world and shows how the American Evaluation Association's (2018) proposed evaluator competencies, such as those in the methodology and context domains, are connected. Rohanna also captures how soft skills, such as reflection and humility, are pivotal to evaluation efforts…. [The] book is a valuable contribution to the evaluation field, especially to graduate students and evaluators interested in learning the concepts of improvement science, evaluation capacity-building, and other approaches as well as details of how to put these evaluation approaches into practice.”

American Journal of Evaluation

This is a very well-written, well-researched, practical text for future researchers.

Bret D. Cormier
Southeast Missouri State University

This book is an intimate, honest and real-world introduction to the use of formative evaluation practices for continuous improvement in a school system. The author’s first-hand account provides actionable tools as well as demonstration of their application in practice. The book is both theoretical and applied, which makes it a useful handbook for those who are engaged in continuous improvement of complex systems.

Dasha Shamrova
Wichita State University

This text teaches change processes through an overarching case example, which makes the concepts more accessible and understandable as students see how things are actually applied.

John B. Stark
California State University, Bakersfield

This book provides an insightful journey from improvement science through complex system change. The case study presented allows readers to reflect on their own journeys in evaluation and change within the complex systems that we often dismiss.

Wesley Wilson
Excalibur Education Group

This text uses real-life examples to apply theory and emphasize the important role of continuous improvement in public and nonprofit programs.

Ryan Yeung
Hunter College
Key features
  • Provides the necessary background for understanding the concepts of persistent problems, formative evaluation, continuous improvement and improvement science, and complexity science and systems thinking.
  • Offers an empirical case study as an example of evaluation in practice.

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