The essay presents and discusses some considerations concerning a sociological view of social
programs evaluation. There are many reasons for a sociological perspective on evaluation to be interesting
and worth to be considered: but all of them may be summarized – on one side – in the position
for which social program evaluation is a special kind of applied social research and – on the other
side – in the fact that considering evaluation as a ‘structured social action’ may offer significant suggestions
for a better understanding of its deep nature and practical making. Assuming this perspective
for dealing with evaluation underlines its being a relational construction, with a context-bounded
meaning, teleologically oriented and embedded in a specific situation: with regard to this profile, a
central (but not absolut) role is played by the procedures, methods, techiniques and instruments –
from the social research – which allow evaluation process and results to be valid, rigorous and sound.
In connextion with this last aspect, it’s the definition of evaluation as (a kind of) ‘applied social
research’ to call for a priority of its methodological side but – at the same time – to link this question
to the evident changes of paradigm who in the last decades affected the ways and forms in which
social research is implemented.
The evaluation of Structural Funds in Italy has supported both the diffusion of evaluation activities
and the use of structured evaluation strategies and methodologies. MEANS’ Guides published
in 1999 contributed to open the discussion upon some key points of evaluation practice: the link with
the role of rationality in decision processes, the priority of accountability or learning aims of evaluation
(and the consistency of the two in everyday practice), the importance of participated evaluation
and its applicability in complex programs as those supported by Structural Funds’. The importance
given to monitoring and mid-term evaluation has maybe weakened the attention paid to the implementation
process, while the direct link of evaluation to results has sometimes produced a «objectives-
results» approach, not much inclined to «open the black box» of the programs and see how
they really works and how they are improvable. Also for these reasons the contribution of sociology
to the evaluation activities has been wrongly considered a marginal one: on the contrary, in a globalised
society social research used in evaluation is very important to develop the awareness of how
public policies really works and to help citizens’ empowerment. In this way, social research helps also
citizens, stakeholders and decision makers to assume right choices.
Evaluation research is for us of key importance because it constitutes the self-reflexive effort of
social policies. This article shows how different approaches to policy making have been matched with
different approaches to their evaluation, with the purpose of understanding how to implement policies
supporting the well-being of the family. Specifically, we suggest that there is a need for relinquishing
the traditional linear evaluation approaches, because they are too heavily based on a preconceived
description of the social reality that does not leave space for the complex effects that social
policies can have on family relations. We argue that there is the necessity of using complex models
considering the family as an active subject, both in the planning and in the evaluation phase. We
hypothesize the possibility of joining the contributions of the last generations of evaluation research,
with the purpose of building a comprehensive evaluation tool based on the relational approach.
After a short description of the history of school system evaluation, the author examines the
main questions related to the implementation of the educational policies evaluation: a) the change of
attitude needed inside the public administration as a consequence of the use of evaluation; b) the
relationship between evaluators and policy makers; c) the goals of school system evaluation; d) the
targets of evaluation; e) the relationship between external ed internal evaluation: f) the use of indicators.
Finally it is presented the model followed by the school system evaluation Committee, which
operates in the Trento region since 1992. The Committee has introduced gradually the idea of evaluation,
beginning with the evaluation of the general system, then introducing schools self evaluation
(which is now operated by almost all the Trento schools) to arrive finally to put forward the idea of
school external evaluation.
The article offers an interpretation of guidance process in a sociological perspective. From this
point of view, it’s clear that any approach to guidance assumed a specific conception of the linkage
between individual and society. Starting form this consideration the article delineates what characterizes
guidance process in the post-modern society; a society more and more fragmentated and uncertain,
in which the subject seems to have increasing freedom of movement and choice. In so doing, the
article proposes a new guidance approach («character-forming guidance»), considered as an appropriate
aid to help the subject in making his choices: choices who are both coherent with self realization
aim and responsible; that is to say, choices who keep in count both the social context to which
the subject himself belongs to and the relational dynamics implied in the construction of self identity
(personal and social identity).
The article is the result of observation in action during the «Madonna del Monte» feast in
Marta, a village on Bolsena Lake. Festival is really spectacular and offers interesting point of views
and archaic elements. Its climax is the so-called «Passata», which means that social classes represented
in the procession (Knights, Farm labourers, Countrymen and Fishermen) get in the church three
times and also means the kiss by the so-called Peace. Feast ends distributing the classic «Ring-shaped
bread» to be put on arm among the Passers-by.