Choosing an Evaluation Theory: A Supplement to Evaluation Roots (3rd Edition)

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Marvin C. Alkin
Christina A. Christie
Naomi A. Stephen


Background: Unlike scientific theories, evaluation theories are prescriptive: a set of actions and approaches that should be followed when conducting an evaluation. While evaluation theorists have offered a variety of writings describing their theories and approaches, few have offered a specific outline of what the theory looks like in practice. Thus, Alkin and Christie formulated a book to aid evaluators in how to apply theories in evaluations (Alkin & Christie, forthcoming). This book culminates in a series of prototypes that outline each theory’s goals, appropriate contexts, prescriptions, and observable actions in application.

Purpose: In order to aid evaluators in applying theories, this article seeks to provide a basis for comparison that can be used to help evaluators select which theory would be most appropriate in their practice.

Setting: This comparison can be applied in any setting where evaluations fit the context prescribed by each of the theories.

Intervention: Not applicable.

Research Design: Not applicablre.

Data Collection and Analysis: Not applicable.

Findings: In order for theories to influence practice effectively, theories must be displayed in a way that allows for easy comparison. This comparison of three theory prototypes demonstrates that prototypes can be an effective way for selecting a prescriptive theory when conducting an evaluation.

Keywords: prescriptive theories; practice; empowerment evaluation; learning centered model; developmental evaluation


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How to Cite
Alkin, M. C., Christie, C. A., & Stephen, N. A. (2021). Choosing an Evaluation Theory: A Supplement to Evaluation Roots (3rd Edition). Journal of MultiDisciplinary Evaluation, 17(41), 51–60.