Interventions as Theories: Closing The Gap between Evaluation and the Disciplines?
The main purpose of theory-oriented evaluation is to help the evaluator to better understand processes of implementation in interventions as well as subsequent induced processes of change. The theory-oriented focus on underlying assumptions behind interventions has recently come under renewed attention within the light of knowledge accumulation about interventions. Yet, perhaps more importantly, different authors have argued and illustrated how a theory-oriented focus can provide the basis for, or enhance the quality of, different types of evaluation exercises. Insights from social science research play an important role in the realization of both types of potential advantages of theory-oriented evaluation exercises. This chapter explores the main characteristics of the theory-oriented evaluation tradition, thereby paying special attention to social science theory. It sketches a generic framework for reconstructing intervention theories, inspired by the work of Coleman and others on social mechanisms. The chapter concludes with a reflection on the foregoing and implications for evaluation practice.