Date of Award

Fall 2022

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Psychology, PhD


School of Social Science, Politics, and Evaluation

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Leslie A. Fierro

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Stewart Donaldson

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Kendall Cotton Bronk

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Christina A. Christie

Terms of Use & License Information

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Rights Information

© 2022 Heather D Codd


Epistemology of practice, Evaluation practice, Evaluation theory, Practical knowledge, Ways of knowing

Subject Categories



Throughout its history, the evaluation field has developed numerous theories. These theories, or evaluation theory as they are collectively known, are integral to the knowledge of the discipline and represent the field’s collective understanding of how evaluation can and should be practiced. Yet, research suggests that the influence of evaluation theory on evaluation practice is minimal. This finding has left the field questioning what knowledge, if not evaluation theory, guides practitioners? Some theorists propose that evaluation practice is influenced by practical knowledge, a diverse knowledge base inherent to the doing of evaluation. Practical knowledge is a blend of explicit procedural knowledge and tacit ways of knowing that inform practitioners’ perceptions and guide their practice. It is developed through practitioner’s interactions with and theorizing of practical problems as well as insights drawn from experience. Despite its perceived importance to evaluation practice, limited research has been conducted on practical knowledge in evaluation. Consequently, the field lacks an understanding of the underlying knowledge, or epistemology, of evaluation practice. The current study addressed this research gap by investigating practical knowledge in evaluation with a specific focus on the ways of knowing that underlie and guide practitioners. A multiple methods research design, consisting of two studies, was implemented. The first study used a convergent mixed methods design to analyze qualitative and quantitative data collected through document review (N=3) and the repertory grid technique (N=22). The findings presented a holistic epistemology of evaluation practice grounded in four inter-related ways of knowing: knowing self, knowing others, knowing the discipline, and knowing the common good and equity. Important insights into the underlying dimensions of the ways of knowing, including creative processes that actuate knowing (i.e., knowing in action) and methods evaluators use to express what has become known through their practice (i.e., expressions of knowing) were also interpreted from the findings. The second study examined how the epistemology of evaluation practice identified in the first study is integrated into graduate programs in evaluation. Qualitative data were collected through semi-structured interviews with evaluation faculty (N=11) as well as alumni and advanced students (N=16) from six graduate programs in evaluation based in the United States. The findings suggest that the epistemology is reflected in the evaluation educational programs, albeit to varying degrees. Knowing the discipline was the most evident among the programs while knowing others and expressions of knowing were moderately evident. Knowing the common good and equity, knowing self, and knowing in action were less apparent, suggesting that these may be areas for further development. This research advances the scholarship on evaluation practice and provides valuable insights into the relationship between evaluation theory and practice. Additionally, the findings present a holistic representation of the epistemology of evaluation practice that challenges existing assumptions about how the field conceptualizes practice and knowledge construction. Last, the findings provide valuable information that can further professionalize evaluation by refining the field’s understanding of the unique nature of evaluation practice and informing evaluator education, reflective practice, and professional development.



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