TIG History

The Theories of Evaluation TIG was founded in 1992 and emerged out of a discussion had by members of the Research on Evaluation group at the American Educational Research Association. The founder, Deborah Fournier, wrote an introductory piece in the American Journal of Evaluation. In it she described the purpose of the TIG as follows:

The purpose of the TIG is to encourage and support the development, critique, and application of theoretical aspects of evaluation practice and research, with the intent of extending our knowledge, challenging practice, and establishing a more comprehensive theoretical foundation for evaluation. Over the years, much attention in evaluation has been on methodology with less on the theoretical aspects that inform the methods employed in practice. Simply, theory of evaluation is the logic and reasoning, and methods are the tools; both are needed for successful, conscientious practice and research.  -​Deborah Fournier, 1992


The Theories of Evaluation TIG provides a forum for individuals with an interest in sharing knowledge about, updating knowledge of, and advocating for the importance of theoretical and empirical ideas and advances in Evaluation theories, models, and philosophy.  We are particularly interested in distinguishing between what evaluation is, does, and ought to be or do.  This may include what might be considered the classical exploration of evaluation theory such as the role of prescriptive and descriptive theory, valuing theory, logic of evaluation, what happens (and what should) when we evaluate (evaluation as intervention), the proper role of justice in evaluation, aligning methods with evaluation goals and epistemological standpoints, and the impact of these considerations on evaluation practice. On one hand the TOE TIG can, and should serve as an intellectual or philosophical home of evaluation at AEA, a place for rumination and incubation and reflection, which are among the first and last steps for theory building. But, on the other hand, this TIG is also intended to facilitate the connection between evaluation theory, oft considered an ivory tower type endeavor, and evaluation practice. We hope that by curating material, organizing high quality sessions at the annual conference, and facilitating discussion we help foster respect and recognition for the role of theory in guiding our practice.