The Whats and Whys of Outcome-Based Evaluation

  • Robert L. Schalock


Welcome to the 1990s! In case you haven’t noticed, things have changed significantly in the world of service delivery and program evaluation over the last few years. The term that is used most frequently to reflect this change is paradigm, which refers to how we approach or think about something. Indeed, both human service programs and the techniques we use to evaluate their efforts and outcomes are currently undergoing a “paradigm shift” characterized by terms such as empowerment, equity, supports, inclusion, accountability, and pragmatic evaluation. This paradigm shift, occurring at the same time that we are seeing an increased competition among service providers and constant social-cultural change, has resulted in new ways of thinking about program evaluation and the techniques we use to evaluate a program’s effectiveness, impact, or benefit-cost.

My major purpose in writing this book is to familiarize you with this changed thinking, and to acquaint you with the rapidly emerging outcome approach to program evaluation. My goal is to make you a more knowledgeable and effective evaluation consumer and producer. As a consumer of program evaluation, you need to understand what OBE is, along with its proper use. As a producer of OBE, you need to know how to use its techniques so that you are accurate, credible, and communicative.

Our odyssey begins by discussing what program evaluation is, and why it is necessary in today’s world to focus more on measurable, person-referenced outcomes. By the end of the chapter, you will know what OBE is and why it is emerging rapidly as an essential approach to program evaluation. Along the way, we will compare outcome-based evaluation with other conceptual approaches to evaluation. Additionally, I will introduce two models that will guide our work throughout the text. The first is a model of outcome-based evaluation that shows the relation among a program’s mission, processes, outcomes, and uses of OBE analyses. The second model outlines an approach to understanding and using the concept of quality of life to select valued, person-referenced outcomes that form the basis of outcome-based evaluation.


Program Evaluation Adaptive Behavior Social Program Role Status Formative Feedback 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Additional Readings

  1. Baker, E. L., O’Neill, H. E, & Linn, R. L. (1993). Policy and validity prospects for performance-based assessment. American Psychologist, 48(2), 1210–1218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Eisen, S. V., Grob, M. C., & Dill, D. L. (1991). Outcome measurement: Tapping the patient’s perspective. In S. M. Mirin, J. M. Gosset & M. C. Grob (Eds.), Recent advances in outcome research (pp. 150–164). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press.Google Scholar
  3. Fishman, D. B. (1992). An introduction to the experimental versus the pragmatic paradigm in evaluation. Evaluation and Program Planning, 14, 353–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Meyer, L. H., & Evans, I. M. (1993). Science and practice in behavioral intervention: Meaningful outcomes, research validity, and usable knowledge. Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 18(4), 224–234.Google Scholar
  5. Mirin, S. M., & Manerow, M. J. (1991). Why study treatment outcomes? Hospital and Community Psychiatry, 42(10), 1007–1013.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Reichardt, C. S., & Rallis, S. F. (Eds.). (1994). The qualitative-quantitative debate. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  7. Shadish, W. R., Jr., Cook, T. D., & Leiviton, L. C. (1991). Foundations of program evaluation: Theories of practice. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert L. Schalock
    • 1
  1. 1.Hastings CollegeHastingsUSA

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