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The evaluation of social policy began in the USA in the 1950s and 1960s and reached the UK by the early 1970s Everitt and Hardiker 199642-43 by which time British social policy was focused on Beveridges Welfare State Jones 1991134 The term evaluation has many definitions Alkin 199081-3 but for the purposes of this essay I will use Pattons broad definition of evaluation as any effort to increase human effectiveness through systematic data-based inquiry 199011 Evaluation research differs from traditional research because it doesnt just collect data to increase knowledge but also to support recommendations for action Patton 198614 The quantitative approach to evaluating social policy emphasises the neutrality and objectivity of the researcher conceptualises practice in terms of a clearly defined positivist model seeks causal relationships between inputs and outputs and applies different interventions to control and experimental groups so that different outcomes can be measured and compared Everitt and Hardiker 199646 The qualitative approach rejects the notion of the neutrality and objectivity of the researcher Instead it seeks to identify participants understandings of the meanings of processes situations and effects treats values as fundamental to participants understandings and recognises that a reflexive approach to the practice of evaluation is important for the creation of knowledge ibid87 The qualitative approach recognises evaluation as a political activity taking place within a political context and therefore uses researchers who are independent inasmuch as they have no direct interest in the work being evaluated Tilley 1999 9297 Within the qualitative approach evaluation is divided into formative evaluation which assesses process and summative evaluation which assesses outcomes Reith 1984 in Everitt and Hardiker 199688 The quantitative approach uses quantitative data eg census data test scores and surveys requiring the answers to closed-ended or scaled questions Torres Preskill and Piontek 199697 which are commonly analysed using statistical formulae The qualitative approach also uses some quantitative data together with qualitative data which may include observation interviews focus groups
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