The practice of evaluative reasoning in the Aotearoa New Zealand public sector : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand
This study argues that sound evaluative reasoning, defined as “the systematic
means for arriving at evaluative conclusions . . . the principles that support
inferences drawn by evaluators” (Fournier, 1995, p.1), is an essential element
of evaluation quality. As such, evaluative reasoning is a lens through which to
consider how to improve the quality of evaluations undertaken or commissioned
by the Aotearoa New Zealand public sector. The argument is grounded in the
theory of evaluation derived from western philosophy, specifically, informal logic.
This theory underpins the conceptualisation and design of this study examining
how evaluative reasoning is understood and practised by professionals who
undertake public sector evaluation in Aotearoa New Zealand. A multiple method
research design is used to generate diverse understandings of the topic and offer
opportunities for abductive thinking. The methods used are Q methodology, metaevaluation,
and key informant interviews with local and international evaluation
The findings from this study point to three ways in which evaluative reasoning
has an impact on the quality of evaluation. It increases the robustness of the
reasoning chain from value claim to evaluative conclusion/judgment; underpins
the professional competencies required of evaluation practitioners; and reinforces
the ethical dimensions of evaluation practice in a public sector context. Lastly, two
abductively-derived conjectures point evaluators toward diverse ways of knowing
in their reasoning from evaluative claim to evaluative conclusion/judgment.
Amplifying the work of previous theorists, it is suggested that expert intuition and
abductive inference provide further paths of evaluative knowing in addition to
inductive logic and probative inference.