Kylie Hutchinson on Evaluation Theories

My name is Kylie Hutchinson. I am an independent evaluation consultant and trainer with Community Solutions Planning & Evaluation. I am one of the facilitators of the Canadian Evaluation Society’s Essential Skills Series course in Canada and a regular workshop presenter at AEA conferences and the AEA Summer Institute. I also Twitter on an occasional basis @EvaluationMaven.

There’s a dizzying range of theories, methods, and values in the field of evaluation that can be overwhelming to newbies, particularly those who were initially expecting to learn only one way of evaluating programs. Examples include goal free, Utilization-focused, Empowerment, Developmental, the list goes on and on.

Rad resource: I like Marvin Alkin and Christina Christie’s Evaluation Theory Tree Revisited, which is found in Marvin Alkin’s book, Evaluation Roots: Tracing Theorists’ Views and Influences (Alkin, 2004). In one simple graphic, it demonstrates the various perspectives out there and how all forms of evaluation stem from the same “trunk” of social accountability, fiscal control, and social inquiry. The tree then categorizes differing evaluation orientations into three main branches:  use, methods, and valuing. Each branch extends into numerous twigs labeled with the names of various evaluation thought leaders who espouse a particular perspective. Newbies can then research the perspectives, use them as applicable in their daily evaluation activities, and align themselves with the orientation that closely matches their values and/or program context. Evaluators can also use the tree as a teaching tool for their stakeholders to broaden their evaluation understanding.

Hot Tip: Skilled evaluators need to become competent interpreters in order to demystify all the overlapping evaluation terminology and theories out there for stakeholders. The Evaluation Theory Tree is particularly helpful in this regard.

Alkin, M. C. (2004). Evaluation Roots: Tracing Theorists’ Views and Influences (1st ed.). Sage Publications, Inc.

7 thoughts on “Kylie Hutchinson on Evaluation Theories”

  1. Pingback: Navigating the vast ocean of evaluation terminology « Demonstrating Value

  2. There was a recent article that summarized the original tree and suggested some revisions. The article has both the original (draft) and revised figures.

    Here is the reference:

    Christie, C.A. & Alkin, M.C. (2008). Evaluation theory tree re-examined. Studies In Educational Evaluation, 34(3), 131-135

  3. If anyone knows of a public version, with permission granted from the authors, we can add it – colleagues? But I’m afraid we can’t use something directly from the Evaluation Roots book. I’ll contact Tina and see if she has one that is independent of the text.

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