Representing Uncertainty: Beliefs and Habits in the International Development Evaluation Context
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Educational Psychology and Research
Gary J. Skolits
Louis M. Rocconi, Garriy Shteynberg, Khin Mar Cho
Evaluation can be imagined as an uncertainty management strategy and evaluators as a class of professionals whose role is reducing uncertainty for decision-makers. In the development sector, uncertainty about the efficacy of various interventions exists and evaluations are needed to improve organizational resource utilization. Representations of uncertainty impact decision-making. Evaluator beliefs and routines regarding uncertainty representation in evaluation reports contribute to the ability of evaluation to influence decisions about development programs and policies. This study aimed to explore these beliefs and habits and to understand how they are influenced by the evaluation context. Social Representations Theory is used to situate evaluator beliefs and habits within an evaluation context and explain how these beliefs and habits form.
Data were collected from 196 evaluators working in the international development context via an online survey. Results indicate that evaluators are generally uncertainty-oriented people who believe uncertainty should be represented in evaluation reports. However, a gap between their beliefs and habits was identified. Latent profile analysis suggests the existence of two groups of evaluators. The majority of evaluators fall within a “Conventional Uncertainty Representing Evaluators” group, with a small minority of “Heterodox Uncertainty Representing Evaluators” exhibiting above average beliefs and habits. Evaluator Uncertainty Representing group membership is significantly predicted by organizational uncertainty management styles after controlling for evaluator experience and education. Organizational uncertainty management styles are also significantly associated with the beliefs-habits gap.
Answers to the research questions in this study provide initial support for an evaluation context model in which evaluator habits and beliefs about uncertainty in the evaluation context are not only being shaped by the organizational context, but also shaping the organizational context. I argue that these findings suggest social representations about uncertainty that exist within particular organizational contexts explain the existence of a conventional majority and a heterodox minority of evaluator beliefs and habits and that evaluators working within these contexts reinforce such beliefs and habits among new colleagues.
Peterson, Christina, "Representing Uncertainty: Beliefs and Habits in the International Development Evaluation Context. " PhD diss., University of Tennessee, 2022.
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