Qualitative-Quantitative Debate in Evaluation

Beginning in the 1970s, evaluators in the academy and in the field were embroiled in what has been, perhaps, the most bitter debate to date about how to do their work and why. The debate pitted quantitative methodologies against qualitative methodologies in a struggle for legitimacy and dominance in evaluation practice. The terms of the debate were primarily methodological and philosophical. The rancor ran high because the debate also involved politics and values and, thereby, fundamental definitions and understandings of evaluation as a scientific and a social practice. The debate was most intense in evaluation during the late 1970s and 1980s, followed by a period of rapprochement in the 1990s that signaled an acceptance of the legitimacy of multiple methodological traditions in our community, with ...

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