The Historical Development of Evaluation Use

Marvin C. Alkin, Jean A. King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The first article in this series traces the initial development of the concept of evaluation use. As a field, evaluation has always paid attention to the potential for use, both in decision-making and in changing people’s thinking. The broad history of the field as we know it today stemmed from two streams: one focused on tests and measurement, primarily in education, and a second focused on social research methods, primarily concerning knowledge utilization. Evaluation use had its roots in both streams, resulting in three broad categories for discussing the use of evaluation findings: instrumental use, conceptual use or enlightenment, and symbolic use. The additional category of process use, added years later, highlighted the potential utility of people’s participation in the evaluation process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)568-579
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Evaluation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • conceptual use
  • instrumental use
  • measurement influence
  • process use
  • social research influence

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