Principles-Focused Evaluation


Michael Quinn Patton

HardcoverPaperbacke-bookprint + e-book
September 28, 2017
ISBN 9781462531905
Price: $112.00
435 Pages
Size: 7" x 10"
October 3, 2017
ISBN 9781462531820
Price: $52.00
435 Pages
Size: 7" x 10"
September 12, 2017
Price: $52.00
435 Pages
print + e-book
Paperback + e-Book (PDF) ?
Price: $104.00 $57.20
435 Pages

How can programs and organizations ensure they are adhering to core principles—and assess whether doing so is yielding desired results? From evaluation pioneer Michael Quinn Patton, this book introduces the principles-focused evaluation (P-FE) approach and demonstrates its relevance and application in a range of settings. Patton explains why principles matter for program development and evaluation and how they can serve as a rudder to navigate the uncertainties, turbulence, and emergent challenges of complex dynamic environments. In-depth exemplars illustrate how the unique GUIDE framework is used to determine whether principles provide meaningful guidance (G) and are useful (U), inspiring (I), developmentally adaptable (D), and evaluable (E). User-friendly features include rubrics, a P-FE checklist, firsthand reflections and examples from experienced P-FE practitioners, sidebars and summary tables, and end-of-chapter application exercises.

“Since Patton introduced developmental evaluation nearly a decade ago, it has become a widely used approach and a staple on the evaluation menu of options. Principles-focused evaluation has the potential to become yet another important option on that menu….There is a multiplicity of value added from Patton’s book for the theorist and practitioner alike. For theorists, principles-focused evaluation truly offers a new way to think with regards to program design, implementation and evaluation….As an evaluation practitioner, I find that principles-focused evaluation provides a unique lens to explore an intervention and its results; it allows a deeper dive into understanding why something works, and why it does not….I highly recommend reading Patton’s book, using his GUIDE, applying it in practice, and in doing so, becoming a nobler evaluator.”

Evaluation and Program Planning

“From the first word, it is clear that this book is essential reading for anyone involved in any kind of work where quality of life is the primary concern….It will be invaluable for students, teachers, and researchers alike. It would also be valuable for social support organizations, their managers, and their practitioner staff ….The book is superbly written….Practical exercises provide opportunities to bring the material to life in a directly meaningful way for the reader….Patton invites us to join him in the journey of further developing the field by testing out, adapting, and revising the ideas he offers to deepen understanding for the benefit of all.”

Evaluation Matters

“In this book, Patton takes reader reflection to another level, asking each reader to go through his or her own journey, engaging in the book content by undertaking examples and practice exercises at the end of each chapter….It is a thought-provoking and insightful book….Patton skillfully guides the reader through an exploratory journey of the PFE approach, and how it can be applied to the contexts we work in.”

American Journal of Evaluation

“The practice exercises at the end of most chapters take the form of reflective, open-ended prompts that allow readers to work through the material presented in the chapter….Teachers may find these exercises useful for starting discussions, guiding group projects, and/or shaping written assignments, while consultants may use them to guide clients and their staffs through a process of reflection, articulation, and organizational self-appraisal….While Patton is a knowledgeable guide through the material, he also is a storyteller and creative non-fiction writer who understands the power of narrative….Woven throughout The GUIDE are bits and chunks and even whole chapters of story, often told by others in the field….Hearing these people share how P-FE worked in specific situations at specific times illustrates the extent to which P-FE can be applied.”

The Qualitative Report

“In the past two decades, Patton has been perhaps the most creative contemporary thinker about how best to advance evaluation practice, with contributions including utilization-focused evaluation, qualitative evaluation methods, process use, complexity concepts, systems change in evaluation, and developmental evaluation, among others. Principles-Focused Evaluation continues Patton's impressive tradition of major breakthrough innovation. This book will undoubtedly expand your thinking and is a 'must read' for evaluation practitioners, scholars, and students. I give it my absolute highest endorsement.”

—Stewart I. Donaldson, PhD, Professor of Psychology and Global Health; Executive Director, Claremont Evaluation Center; Director, The Evaluators' Institute, Claremont Graduate University

“Patton is one of our most innovative evaluation theorists—and this book underscores that point. P-FE provides the framework for implementing evaluations that are grounded in meaningful, actionable, and rigorous evidence. The book offers guidance on theory and practice plus examples that bring the concepts to life. No one else engages readers quite like Patton. Another exceptional contribution by a master!”

—Christina A. Christie, PhD, Chair, Department of Education, University of California, Los Angeles

Principles-Focused Evaluation provides a practical toolkit for guiding and shaping the urgent work of shifting institutions, systems, and cultures from maladaptive to adaptive states. Patton builds on his foundational work in utilization-focused evaluation and developmental evaluation. This is a timely and important book for evaluators—and for the social innovators, policymakers, educators, and funders with whom they work.”

—Stephen Huddart, President and CEO, The J. W. McConnell Family Foundation, Montréal, Québec, Canada

“Gender equity, empowerment, climate mitigation, poverty reduction, peacebuilding—these prevalent programmatic initiatives take many different forms but share principled foundations of action. In this book, Patton shifts the attention of evaluators to the fundamental propositions that drive change, offering a valuable approach for addressing the complexities of many—if not most—evaluation environments.”

—Ann M. Doucette, PhD, Research Professor, Claremont Graduate University; Director of Special Projects, The Evaluators’ Institute

Table of Contents

I. Principles: What They Are, Why They Matter, and Their Niche in Program Development and Evaluation

1. First Principles

2. Effectiveness Principles: What? Why? When? How? Who? Where?

3. Examples of Principles-Driven Change Initiatives and Programs

4. Evaluating Principles: Historical Context and Forward-Looking Challenge

5. The Niche and Nature of Principles-Focused Evaluation: Serving Diverse Purposes

II. GUIDE: Criteria for Effectiveness Principles

6. GUIDE for PRINCIPLES: The Characteristics of High-Quality Effectiveness Principles

G: Guidance

7. Guidance for Developing and Distinguishing Principles: Principles versus Rules, and the Alternative Principles Test

8. Referring to Something as a Principle Doesn’t Make It One: Distinguishing Effectiveness Principles

9. Still More Guidance on Developing and Distinguishing Principles: Principles Derived from and Contrasted with Assumptions, Truths, and Lessons

10. Conceptual Triangulation: Evaluating the Similarities of Parallel Principles

11. Holistic, Sequential, and Pole Star Approaches to Principles

U: Useful

12. Principles Point the Way to Desired Results

13. Diverse Uses of Principles across an Organization, Nora F. Murphy & Heather Huseby

14. Evaluating the Utility of Research-Derived Principles for Enhancing Online Learning

I: Inspiring

15. Inspirational Principles Are Infused with Values

16. Principles-Focused Evaluation at the Grassroots in Africa: Inspirational Examples and Reflections, John Wilson

17. Inspiring Principles: Distinguishing Overarching Principles from Operational Principles, Charmagne Campbell-Patton

18. Principles-Focused Pedagogy of Evaluation: Inspired by Freirean Pedagogy

D: Developmental

19. The Developmental Nature of Effectiveness Principles: A Case Example of Adapting Principles in Practice, Yve Susskind & Peggy Holman

20. Simple Rules and Minimum Specifications: Spotlight on Complexity Concepts with Developmental Implications

E: Evaluable

21. Evaluable Principles: Methods and Measures for Evaluating the Effectiveness of Principles

22. Principles-Focused Sampling

23. Rendering Judgments about the Effectiveness of Principles

24. Evaluating Principles for Evidence of Effectiveness: Three Kinds of Evidence-Based Judgments and Effective Principles in Contrast to Best Practices

Summary of Parts I and II: Major Themes of Principles-Focused Evaluation

III. Principles-Driven Initiatives with Principles-Focused Evaluations: Exemplars of Principles in Practice

III-A.Three Levels of Principles-Based Interventions: Macro (Global), Micro (Program), and Meso (Community)

25. Principles Driving Reform: Evaluation of the Paris Declaration Principles on Aid Effectiveness

26. Discovering and ValidatingEffectiveness PrinciplestoHelp Youth Overcome Homelessness

27. Vibrant Communities Canada: A Principles-Driven Systems Change Initiative and Emergent Example of Principles-Focused Evaluation Potential

Part III-B. Three Different Agriculture-Focused Initiatives

28. Collaborative Principles Supporting Shared Commitment: The Global Alliance for the Future of Food

29. Principles Enhancing Coherence: The McKnight Foundation Collaborative Crop Research Program

30. Principles Defining a Field of Agroecology: How Principles Inform and GUIDE Practices

IV. Principles for Evaluations and Evaluators

31. Evaluating Evaluation Principles: Examining Principles That Guide Evaluations and Evaluators

32. Outcome Harvesting Evaluation: Practical Application of Essential Principles, Ricardo Wilson-Grau

33. Reflections of a Principles-Focused Evaluator: What's in a Name?, Donna Podems

34. Waking Lumina: A Personal Principles-Based Evaluation Philosophy, Nora F. Murphy

V. Principles-Focused Evaluation in Practice: Tools and Checklist

35. Tools for Principles-Focused Evaluation

36. Principles-Focused Evaluation Checklist

Conclusion and Final Practice Exercise

Epilogue: Eleven Questions, Eleven Principles-Focused Responses

About the Author

Michael Quinn Patton, PhD, is an independent consultant who has been conducting program evaluations since the 1970s. Based in Minnesota, he was on the faculty of the University of Minnesota for 18 years and is a former president of the American Evaluation Association (AEA). His books include Developmental Evaluation, Developmental Evaluation Exemplars, Principles-Focused Evaluation, Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods (now in its fourth edition), and Utilization-Focused Evaluation (now in its fourth edition), among others. He is a recipient of the Alva and Gunnar Myrdal Evaluation Practice Award and the Paul F. Lazarsfeld Evaluation Theory Award, both from AEA, as well as the Lester F. Ward Distinguished Contribution to Applied and Clinical Sociology Award from the Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology. Dr. Patton is an active trainer and workshop presenter who has conducted applied research and evaluation on a broad range of issues and has worked with organizations and programs at the international, national, state, provincial, and local levels.



Michael Quinn Patton, PhD, Utilization-Focused Evaluation, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Chapter Authors

Charmagne E. Campbell-Patton, MA, Utilization-Focused Evaluation, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Peggy Holman, MBA, Journalism That Matters, Bellevue, Washington

Heather Huseby, PhD, Youthlink, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Nora F. Murphy, PhD, TerraLuna Collaborative, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Donna Podems, PhD, OtherWISE, Capetown, South Africa

Yve Susskind, PhD, Praxis Associates LLC, Vashon, Washington

John Wilson, PhD, independent consultant, Africa

Ricardo Wilson-Grau, MA, Richardo Wilson-Grau Consulting, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


Applied researchers who do evaluations; instructors and graduate students in education, psychology, sociology, management, social work, nursing, and public policy.

Course Use

Will serve as a core or supplemental text in graduate-level courses in evaluation, social research methods, program planning, and management consulting.