Theories of Eval TIG Week: Application of the Fourth Generation or Constructivist Evaluation to Health Benefits of Moderate Drinking by Gisele Tchamba

Hello! I am Gisele Tchamba, past Chair of Behavioral Health TIG and Founder of ADR Evaluation Consulting.

Valuing from the Fourth Generation Evaluation (FGE) Perspective – Evaluation theorists in the valuing branch of Alkin’s theory tree have different views of valuing. Some share the perspectives of Third Generation Evaluation in which the evaluator as judge determines the value of the evaluand. Others, FGE theorists espouse the notion that the evaluator, as mediator, facilitates the placing of value by others. I appreciate the rigor and discipline of the FGE methodology, which is based on constructivism (subjective reality). The FGE empowers stakeholders by involving them in the determination of the worth of the evaluand. FGE brings together a diverse group of stakeholders to examine an issue of concern.

How it Works – I applied the FGE to understanding primary care providers’ perspectives of health benefits of moderate drinking.


Data collection: this was a series of interrelated activities that was aimed at gathering good information to answer emergent evaluation question. Stakeholders were asked how they perceived the effects of moderate alcohol consumption on health and what influenced their perceptions.

Sampling: I used a theoretical sample of individuals that contributed to building the open and axial coding of the theory. In keeping with the FGE procedure, I collected data from nine stakeholders.  These were Physician Assistants (PAs). The PAs had expert knowledge and understanding of health benefits of moderate drinking that led to the theory of “conflict”.

Data analysis: In the FGE, data collection and analysis are conducted simultaneously. Following the FGE method, initial interviews were analyzed which guided the subsequent interviews. This process continued until data saturation was achieved. The FGE constant comparative was employed. This involved repeatedly comparing codes to codes. Codes were turned into categories through axial coding. This led to the formation of four main constructs from which the central construct or theory was developed. The theory was sent to stakeholders for confirmation or disconfirmation.

Lessons Learned:

  • FGE is often misunderstood and seldom used in evaluation programs.
  • FGE’s methods use meticulous rigor and trustworthiness.
  • Data analysis for FGE is complex, nonlinear, messy, yet rewarding.
  • Keep an open mind to field-based concerns, but the FGE has considerable strengths.
  • Stakeholders’ confirmation that the evaluation’s representation of their view is evidence that the evaluator kept their bias in check.

Rad Resources: 

Learn more about Constructivist Evaluation with this checklist:

Guba, Egon G.; Lincoln, Yvonna S. (2001). Guidelines and Checklist for Constructivist (a.ka. Fourth Generation) Evaluation. From

For a few examples of how to apply the FGE to real programs, check out:

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Theories of Evaluation  TIG week. All posts this week are contributed by members of the TOE Topical Interest Group. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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