I came across the word “captious” today. I did not know this word, so I looked for definitions. It is used in two ways: (1) trivial fault-finding; (2) intended to provoke argument. I thought about applying these notions to evaluation practice.
A captious evaluation report is focused on stating every flaw in the evaluand, no matter how trivial. Reading the report raises questions about the evaluator’s capacity to be objective. Can this evaluator see anything good, or is he programmed to only see flaws?
In a captious conversation statements are made to provoke arguing rather than discussing or dialoging. Person A: “it’s not practical to have community members participate in planning this evaluation.” Person B: “In what way is it not practical?” Person A: “It just isn’t.” Person B: “Have you been in an evaluation where there was community participation?” Person A: “No, because I’m a practical evaluator.” Person A is making captious statements rather than engaging in a constructive conversation.
I wonder how often I have acted as a captious evaluator.