All evaluators want their evaluations to be useful and used. Evaluation clients need evaluation to bring value to their work to make the investment worthwhile. What does evaluation use look like in your context? It should be more than accountability reporting. Here are common types of evaluation use as defined in the evaluation literature:
Instrumental Use is using evaluation for decision-making purposes. These decisions are most commonly focused on improvement, such as changing marketing strategies or modifying curriculum. Or, they can be more summative in nature, such as deciding to continue, expand, or reinvent a project.
Process Use happens when involvement in an evaluation leads to learning or different ways of thinking or working.
Conceptual Use is evaluation use for knowledge. For example, a college dean might use an evaluation of her academic programs to further understand an issue related to another aspect of STEM education. This evaluation influences her thinking, but does not trigger any specific action.
Symbolic Use is use of evaluation findings to forward an existing agenda. Using evaluation to market an ATE program or to apply for further funding could be examples.
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