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Evaluating outreach activities: overcoming challenges through a realist ‘small steps’ approach

Harrison, Neil; Waller, Richard

Authors

Neil Harrison Neil.Harrison@uwe.ac.uk
Occasional Associate Lecturer - EDU



Abstract

© 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Practitioners are being placed under increasing pressure to evaluate the success of their outreach activities, both by government and by their own universities. Based in a reductionist doctrine of ‘evidence-based practice’, there is a desire to demonstrate the effectiveness and value-for-money across activities that now account for around £175 million per year across England. This article examines some of the difficulties in evaluating the complex social world of outreach and suggests a ‘small steps’ approach to overcome some of these. This uses the idea of a transformative ‘theory of change’ as a framework for understanding the particular contribution made by discrete activities within a wider portfolio, providing a more reliable form of inference than attempts to ‘prove’ impact over longer timeframes.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jul 3, 2017
Journal Perspectives: Policy and Practice in Higher Education
Print ISSN 1360-3108
Electronic ISSN 1460-7018
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 21
Issue 2-3
Pages 81-87
APA6 Citation Harrison, N., & Waller, R. (2017). Evaluating outreach activities: overcoming challenges through a realist ‘small steps’ approach. Perspectives: Policy and Practice in Higher Education, 21(2-3), 81-87. https://doi.org/10.1080/13603108.2016.1256353
DOI https://doi.org/10.1080/13603108.2016.1256353
Keywords outreach, evaluation, social realism, epistemology
Publisher URL http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13603108.2016.1256353
Additional Information Additional Information : This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Perspectives: Policy and Practice in Higher Education on 05 December 2016, available online: http://www.tandfonline....0/13603108.2016.1256353

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