Evaluation approaches are conceptually distinct ways of thinking about, designing and conducting evaluation efforts. Many of the evaluation approaches in use today make unique contributions to solving important problems, while others refine existing approaches in some way. Classification systems intended to sort out unique approaches from variations on a theme are presented here to help identify some basic schools of thought for conducting an evaluation. After these approaches are identified, they are summarized in terms of a few important attributes.
Since the mid 1960s, the number of alternative approaches to conducting evaluation efforts has increased dramatically. Factors such as the United States Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 that required educators to evaluate their efforts and results, and the growing public concern for accountability of human service programs contributed to this growth. In addition, over this period of time there has been an international movement towards encouraging evidence based practice in all professions and in all sectors. Evidence Based Practice (EBP) requires evaluations to deliver the information needed to determine what is the best way of achieving results.
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