Ethical Standards in Evaluation

Ethical Standards in Evaluation

Since the mid-1970s, the field of evaluation has been active in developing different ethical codes or standards. (See Fitzpatrick [1999] for a discussion of the history of ethical codes in evaluation and a comparison to codes in other disciplines.) Currently, the two most prominent codes for evaluation in the United States are the Program Evaluation Standards developed by the Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation (1981, 1994, 2010) and the Guiding Principles for Evaluators developed by the American Evaluation Association in 1995 and revised in 2003.

These two codes differ in purpose. The Standards are designed to assist both evaluators and consumers in judging the quality of a particular evaluation. The Guiding Principles are to provide ethical guidance for evaluators in their everyday practice. The Standards focus on the product of the evaluation. The Guiding Princi- ples focus on the behavior of the evaluator. Both, however, inform us as to ethical and appropriate ways for evaluations to be conducted. And, as Sanders (1995) observes, there are no conflicts or inconsistencies between the two documents.

Other countries, too, have been involved in developing ethical codes. The Canadian Evaluation Society (1992) and the Australasian Evaluation Society (Amie [1995]) have each developed ethical codes for evaluators. Many European countries, including Switzerland, Germany, France, and England, have adopted ethical codes or standards. The Swiss and German codes draw on the Standards of the Joint Committee, as do the African Evaluation Guidelines (Rouge, 2004). Countries in Asia, South America, and Africa are developing codes either as indi- vidual countries or as groups (Stufflebeam, 2004a). This activity reflects the many

Chapter 3 • Political, Interpersonal, and Ethical Issues in Evaluation 83

and different ethical challenges evaluators face in conducting their work. As Hendricks and Conner (1995) noted when the AEA Guiding Principles were first published, the context of evaluation and the ethical principles that are of primary concern differ across countries. Rouge (2004), for example, discusses the devel- opment of evaluation codes for the diverse countries in Africa, and how the codes, although beginning with the Joint Committee’s Standards as a guide, had to be adapted to the different context of politics and governments in Africa. Specifically, given the many authoritarian governments in Africa, the guidelines include pro- tection for evaluators and special considerations regarding political viability and the disclosure of findings. In these countries where evaluation cultures are new, ethical guidelines can be useful in helping to form those cultures.

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