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Evaluation Purposes, Types and Questions

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A Teaching Topic in Evaluation and Performance Measurement

Evaluation Purposes, Types and Questions

This topic asks students to consider the various purposes that policy and program evaluations serve. Specifically, students consider where program evaluation fits with the broader objective of improved government performance. This topic covers the potential value of multi-purpose evaluations and strategies. Finally, this topic begins to teach students how to generate key evaluation questions.

Topic Learning Outcome:  Upon mastering this topic, students will understand the role of policy and program evaluation in the policy process. Students will be able to define the different types of program evaluations commonly used in governments, and will have learned the characteristics of useful evaluation questions. 

Core Concepts Associated with this Topic: Sensitivity Analysis; Intangible Benefits of Programs; Result; Results Chain; Beneficiaries; Best Practices; Departmental Evaluation Plan; Departmental Performance Report; Economy(in evaluation); Evaluation Criteria; Evaluation Products; Formative Evaluation; Gaming (in evaluation); Gender-based Analysis (GBA); Impact Evaluation; Open Systems Approach; Program Evaluation; Project/Program Objective; Terms of Reference (in evaluation).

Recommended Reading (Carleton University PADM 5420): 

Mertens, Donna M., and Wilson, Amy T., Program Evaluation Theory and Practice: A Comprehensive Guide. New York: The Guilford Press, 2012. Chapter 8.

Alkin, Marvin C., Evaluation Roots: A Wider Perspective of Theorists’ Views and Influences (2nd Edition). Los Angeles: Sage, 2013. Chapter 27.

W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “Logic Model Development Guide.” Battle Creek, Michigan: W.K. Kellogg Foundation, 2004. Chapters 3 and 4.

Owen, John. “Successful or not: It depends on your Frame of Reference,” Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation, 25(2010), 3, 85-94.

Source: PADM 5420 Syllabus, 2012

Sample Assessment Questions:

        1.)  What is a summative evaluation? How does a summative evaluation differ from a formative evaluation?

        2.)  What are policy outcomes? Why is it preferable for evaluation strategies to measure policy outcomes as opposed to inputs or outputs?

        3.)  What is gaming? Please provide a (real or hypothetical) example.

        4.)  What is the role of the “terms of reference” in the evaluation process?

        5.)  What is meant by the term “intangible benefits of programs?” Why is this an important concept for program evaluators to understand?


Page Created By: Matthew Seddon and Ben Eisen, last updated 8 April, 2015.


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