Evaluation Models

Evaluation Models

Evaluation Models

Evaluation Models


The author of this issue identifies, analyzes and judges twenty-two evaluation approaches thought to cover most program evaluation efforts, providing unique assistance to evaluators faced with choosing an appropriate and valid approach for a particular situation. He describes each approach-its orientation, purpose, typical questions being addressed and methods, and rates them in each of the four areas previously defined by the Joint Committee Program Evaluation Standards: utility, feasibility, propriety and accuracy. Controversially, he concludes that there are only nine methods that merit continued use and development. The standards-based metaevaluation checklist used by the author is included so that readers can judge the validity of his process and conclusions, or use the checklist themselves. This is the 89th issue of the quarterly journal New Directions for Evaluation.


Evaluators today have many more evaluation approaches available to them than in 1960. As they address the challenges of the 21st century, it is an opportune time to consider what 20th century evaluation developments are valuable for future use and which ones would best be left behind. I have, in this monograph, attempted to sort twenty-two alternative evaluation approaches into what fishermen sometimes call the “keepers” and the “throwbacks.” More importantly, I have characterized each approach; assessed its strengths and weaknesses; and considered whether, when, and how it is best applied. The reviewed approaches emerged mainly in the U.S. between 1960 and 1999.

20th Century Expansion of Program
Evaluation Approaches

Following a period of relative inactivity in the 1950s, a succession of international and national forces stimulated the expansion and development of evaluation theory and practice. The main influences were the efforts to vastly strengthen the U.S. defense system spawned by the Soviet Union’s 1957 launching of Sputnik I; the new U.S. laws in the 1960s to equitably serve minorities and persons with disabilities; federal government evaluation requirements of the Great Society programs initiated in 1965; the U.S. movement begun in the 1970s to hold educational and social organizations accountable for both prudent use of resources and achievement of objectives; the stress on excellence in the 1980s as a means of increasing U.S. international competitiveness; and the trend in the 1990s for various organizations—both inside and outside the U.S.—to employ evaluation to ensure quality, competitiveness, and equity in delivering services. In pursuing reforms, American society has repeatedly pressed schools and colleges, health-care organizations, and various social welfare enterprises to show through evaluation whether or not services and improvement efforts were succeeding.

The development of program evaluation as a field of professional practice was also spurred by a number of seminal writings. These included, in chronological order, publications by Tyler (1942, 1950), Campbell and Stanley (1963), Cronbach (1963), Stufflebeam (1966, 1967), Tyler (1966), Scriven (1967), Stake (1967), Suchman (1967), Alkin (1969), Guba (1969),

This monograph is a condensed and updated version of a manuscript prepared for the
Western Michigan University Evaluation Center’s Occasional Paper Series.

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