Core Concepts in Evaluation: Contemporary Commentary on Classic Writings

An edited book


Thank you to everyone who submitted chapter abstracts and provided input on the book's concept and process! We received 21 outstanding proposals for 12 chapters. We will post news about selected authors after all proposing authors have been notified.


Who is editing this book?

Lori A. Wingate

Western Michigan University


Ayesha Boyce

Arizona State University


Lyssa Wilson Becho

Western Michigan University


Kelly Robertson

Western Michigan University

  • The Evaluation Center | Western Michigan University
  • Arizona State University

What is the point of this book?

Core Concepts in Evaluation: Contemporary Commentary on Classic Writings acquaints evaluation students and practitioners with the big ideas that have helped shape the discipline of evaluation. It features a unique combination of classic writings by some of the field’s most influential figures, paired with new essays by a diverse set of evaluators. The classic pieces will help readers gain a deeper understanding of the evaluation field’s defining concepts, along with their origins and evolution. The new commentaries will situate those writings in a historical context, examine their importance and influence on the field, and assess the current state of the field related to the featured concepts. A reflection guide at the close of each section of the book will spark readers’ imagination and critical thinking about the successes, shortcomings, and promise of evaluation as a discipline.

Readers of this book will 

●      engage with important original writings on evaluation (rather than relying on secondary summaries and characterizations)

●      understand what sets program evaluation apart from other disciplines and forms of inquiry

●      deepen their thinking about core evaluation concepts

●      engage with the latest thinking on these concepts

●      develop a historical perspective on the evolution of evaluation as a discipline and profession.

What are the featured core concepts and classic writings? How were they selected?

Evaluation is practiced in a wide variety of contexts for different purposes. Practitioners have vastly different academic backgrounds, epistemologies, and values. They use eclectic methods, mostly borrowed and refined from other disciplines. Yet, evaluation stands apart from other fields in several ways, and evaluators generally agree on these points:

1. Evaluation is a distinct form of inquiry that is oriented to reaching judgments of merit, worth, or significance.

Classic writing: Scriven, M. (1991). Introduction. In Evaluation thesaurus (4th ed.). SAGE. (pp. 1–43).

2. Stakeholder engagement enhances the usefulness and relevance of evaluation.

Classic writing: Weiss, C. H. (1983). The stakeholder approach to evaluation: Origins and promise. New Directions in Program Evaluation, 3–14.

3. Evaluation is inherently political.

Classic writing: Chelimsky, E. (1987). What have we learned about the politics of program evaluation? American Journal of Evaluation, 8(1), 5–21.

4. Culturally responsive evaluation practice can lead to a more just society.

Classic writing: Hood, S. (1998). Responsive evaluation Amistad style: Perspectives of one African American evaluator. In R. Davis (Ed.), Proceedings of the Stake Symposium on Educational Evaluation (pp. 101–112). University of Illinois.

5. Evaluation’s value is realized through its use and influence.

Classic writing: Patton, M. Q. (1978). Utilization-focused Evaluation [Chapters 1–2]. SAGE.

6. Evaluation is a reflexive practice: evaluation can and should be evaluated.

Stufflebeam, D. L. (2011). Metaevaluation. Journal of MultiDisciplinary Evaluation, 7(15), 99-158. (Reprinted [and shortened] from “Metaevaluation,” 1975, Occasional Paper Series, 3, 99-158.)


As editors, we drew upon our collective knowledge of the field to identify these six core concepts, which we believe define evaluation and distinguish it from other disciplines. We selected writings that convey seminal ideas that influenced the field’s development with regard to these core concepts. These previously published articles, book chapters, and informal papers were authored by scholars who are widely recognized as influential in evaluation theory and practice. We did not identify an arbitrary timeframe that would make something classic. Rather, we focused on selecting writings whose big ideas acted as seeds that would sprout, flourish, and come to define the field.

Many within our field have rightly critiqued the racial homogeneity of the scholars whose writings are included in foundational texts and who are recognized as key theorists and award winners. This book features early writings that strongly influenced the evaluation field’s development; the majority of the authors of these pieces are white. We recognize that these authors and their works gained influence within systems that systemically overlooked other valuable ideas proposed by scholars of color. As an example of a contribution by an early evaluator of color, as part of the book’s introduction we feature a 1957 article by Leander Boykin,[1] a Black evaluation scholar.[2] His ideas about evaluation did not gain traction at the time, and he is not widely cited in today’s evaluation literature. However, he introduced ideas about evaluation that ultimately became widely accepted.

We aim to ensure that the authors of the contemporary chapters are diverse and take up topics of lack of representation, erasure, and equity in their essays. Further, we welcome suggestions for the inclusion of additional works that could be considered seminal by authors who are part of systematically and historically underrepresented groups.

How can I contribute?

The editors are seeking contributing authors to write 4,000- to 5,000-word commentaries on the classic writings listed above. Focusing on a single classic piece, contributing authors may wish to consider analyzing the historical, social, or cultural context from which the seminal writing emerged; commenting on how or why the ideas in the classic writing were innovative at the time; discussing how the field has evolved since the piece was written; and/or recommending how the field can further advance in this area.

Each book section will include two new essays related to one classic piece. We encourage coordinated submissions, so if you have a colleague who could offer a different perspective on your topic of interest, consider developing your abstracts together. Multiple authors are also encouraged on single essays. In particular, young emerging evaluators, as well as underrepresented voices, including Black, brown, indigenous, and other non-white evaluators, are encouraged to submit.

To submit a proposal for a book chapter, complete the Core Concepts chapter proposal form by 11:59 p.m. on May 1. This online form will prompt you for the following information:

  • Name and organizational affiliation for all authors

  • Draft title for your chapter(s)

  • 350- to 500-word abstract for your chapter(s), including a primary thesis or perspective your chapter will take, how your chapter will advance the core concept, and how you’ll situate the original article within contemporary discussion of the topic

  • Citations of the proposing authors’ previous presentations and formal or informal writings on the topic (e.g., blog posts, conference presentations, course papers, reports, peer-reviewed manuscripts)

The editors will contact you with a decision by May 16.

How will contributing authors be compensated?

●      From SAGE, each author will receive a $350 SAGE allowance, which may be applied toward their choice of SAGE products, and two copies of the book in print form.

●      From the editors’ universities, each chapter’s lead author will receive $200 (to be further distributed to coauthors as appropriate).

●      From the editors, additional supports based on author input at the book kickoff meeting (e.g., early copyediting, peer author support groups, one-on-one meetings with the editors at key junctures).

Thank you to Vidhya Shanker and Aisha Rios for elevating our thinking about author compensation and how to make opportunities for contributing to evaluation scholarship more equitable and inclusive.

What is the timeline for the book’s development?

May 1, 2022

Deadline for submitting chapter proposals

May 16

Editors contact proposing authors about selection decision

May 19, 1 p.m. ET

Kickoff meeting with all authors

July 11

Authors submit first drafts to editors

August 1

Editors provide authors feedback on first drafts

September 12

Authors submit second drafts to editors

October 1

Editors provide authors final feedback on second drafts, if needed


Editors complete book and section introductions and reflection guides

January 1, 2023

Editors submit complete manuscript to publisher


Authors and editors revise content based on reviewer feedback

May 31

Final, revised manuscript submitted to publisher


Book available for purchase

How can I gain access to the classic writings?

If you do not have access to the classic writings cited above, email Lori Wingate at

Who can I reach out to with questions?

For any questions or clarifications, email Lori Wingate at


1 Boykin, L. L. (1957). Let’s eliminate the confusion: What is evaluation? Educational Administration and Supervision, 43(2), 115–121.

2 Hood and Hopson highlighted the contributions of Leander Boykin and other early Black evaluators in their Nobody knows my name project: Hood, S. (2001). Nobody knows my name: In praise of African American evaluators who were responsive. New Directions for Evaluation, 2001(92), 31-44. And Hood, S., & Hopson, R. K. (2008). Evaluation roots reconsidered: Asa Hilliard, a fallen hero in the “Nobody Knows My Name” project, and African educational excellence. Review of educational research, 78(3), 410–426.