Who Needs Goals? A Case Study of a Goal-Free Evaluation

Main Article Content

Brandon W. Youker
Alayna Zielinski
Ouen Hunter
Nicholas Bayer


Background: Goal-free evaluation (GFE) is any evaluation in which the evaluator conducts the evaluation without knowledge of or reference to predetermined goals and objectives whereas the goal-based evaluator determines merit according to the evaluand’s goal achievement.


Purpose: To examine a GFE in actual practice focusing on its operationalization as well as paying particular attention to the evaluation users’ perspective of its utility.


Setting: The evaluand was a day long training of summer camp counselors on occupational therapy (OT) related skills such as feeding, dressing, and bathing.



Intervention: GFE was the intervention however for comparison purposes an independent and simultaneous goal-based evaluation (GBE) also evaluated the evaluand.


Research Design: Case study.


Data Collection and Analysis: After the evaluation users read both the GBE and GFE reports, data collection consisted of a semantic differential questionnaires followed by a focus group. Additionally, the research team analyzed both GBE and GFE reports for relevant themes.


Findings: The evaluation users reported a slightly more positive attitude toward the GFE report on the semantic differential yet many focus group respondents stated that they found the GBE report more useful or perceived no difference between the two. Evaluation users reported the benefits of GFE to include its potential for developing or aligning goals, expanding the pool of potential outcomes, and supplementing GBE strategies.



Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

How to Cite
Youker, B. W., Zielinski, A., Hunter, O., & Bayer, N. (2016). Who Needs Goals? A Case Study of a Goal-Free Evaluation. Journal of MultiDisciplinary Evaluation, 12(27), 27–43. https://doi.org/10.56645/jmde.v12i27.448
Author Biographies

Brandon W. Youker, Grand Valley State University

Brandon W Youker, Ph.D is an assistant professor of social work at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan and an independent evaluation consultant. 

Alayna Zielinski, Hope Network

Alayna Zielinski, LLBSW is a case manager in a residential treatment facility for individuals with a severe and chronic mental illness in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Ouen Hunter, Johnson Center for Philanthropy

Ouen C Hunter, MS, has a Master’s Degree in Biostatistics, is a research manager at the Johnson Center for Philanthropy, and is pursuing her Master of Social Work at Grand Valley State University. 

Nicholas Bayer, Wings of Hope Hospice

Nicholas Bayer, LLMSW, received his Masters of Social Work from Grand Valley State University and works with Wings of Hope Hospice in Allegan, Michigan.