Who we are getting it right for: The practitioners’ experience of program evaluation

Author Identifiers

Andrea Highman


Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Science


School of Arts and Humanities

First Advisor

Elizabeth Reid Boyd

Second Advisor

Kim Clark


Program delivery staff are important stakeholders in program evaluation and social service organisations that intend to undertake quality evaluations must effectively engage these staff in the process (Zarinpoush, 2006). A starting point for this is recognising that staff perceptions of evaluation are influenced by professional and personal factors including their understanding of evaluation, how they think it may benefit them or their clients and the character of their prior experiences of evaluation (Taut & Alkin, 2003; Dunkley & Franklin, 2017; van Koperen et.al, 2016; Herbert, 2015).

This study interprets the experiences of staff delivering social programs in not-for-profit services in Perth, Western Australia of having their social service programs evaluated, and how their experiences had influenced their perceptions of evaluation, for the purpose of identifying ways to increase engagement of practitioners in evaluation activities.

Utilising a constructivist grounded theory approach and incorporating feminist research practices, the study comprised four focus groups with staff from two organisations, exploring topics such as their perceptions of how the evaluation benefited them and their clients, their assessments of the impact of the evaluation on their program and service, how they felt about their level of involvement in the process, and their feeling about future evaluations.

The study found that practitioners are keen to deliver evidence-based programs and wish to use evaluation to inform their work and demonstrate outcomes. They wish to participate in evaluation and learn from them. It also found that practitioner engagement is influenced by their perception of whether an evaluation activity aligns with their personal and professional values, and whether they believe it is useful in their context and accurately reflects their clients’ experiences.

The results of the study add to the body of knowledge of the perceptions of delivery staff to program evaluation and inform the social service industry of ways to better engage delivery staff in the evaluation process, concluding with a checklist of questions organisations can use to ensure they are working collaboratively with practitioners to produce quality evaluation outcomes.

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