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19.06.2017 - Spring conference of the Working Group on Methods in Bonn

On 9 and 10 June 2017, DEval hosted this year's spring conference of the Working Group on Methods of DeGEval – Evaluation Society. The conference addressed the issue of mechanisms as an alternative to causal attribution, and participants discussed the options for using causal mechanisms in the context of evaluation and the limitations that apply.

Discussions were based on the talks given by Frans Leeuw from Maastricht University's Scientific Research and Documentation Centre (WODC) on mechanisms in theory-based evaluations, by Peter Schmidt (Giessen University/Polish Foundation for Basic Research) on mechanisms, mediation and phantom variables in theory-led quantitative evaluation research, and by Johannes Schmitt (DEval) on recording mechanisms using the process tracing method. In addition, Sigrid Haunberger (University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland) presented a case study on the use of mechanisms as part of realistic evaluation and Frank Willemsen (WODC) demonstrated the links between big data and mechanisms as part of his talk. The speakers presented various ways of approaching mechanisms and highlighted data collection methods that can be used to record mechanisms.

During a final panel debate prepared by working groups involving all of the speakers, definitions of mechanisms and their role in evaluations were discussed. Participants took a critical look at different ways of understanding mechanisms (mechanisms as an 'explanation' of contexts vs. mechanisms as a 'process'). In addition, emphasis was placed on the significance of mechanisms in formulating programme theories on the basis of existing scientific and evaluation findings. Documentation of the conference will be posted on the website of the Working Group on Methods of Evaluation soon: (http://www.degeval.de/arbeitskreise/methoden-in-der-evaluation/).

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