Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Jianping Shen

Second Advisor

Dr. Van Cooley

Third Advisor

Dr. Susan Edgerton


The purpose of this study was to examine the differences between personal epistemic styles of professional evaluators, the influence those styles have on evaluation practice, and to determine whether a typology of evaluation practice can be extrapolated from a study of epistemic style. Epistemic style was defined as how one determines what is true (or what constitutes knowledge). The intent was to provide empirical evidence of the relationship between theory and practice in the hope that it will contribute to an increased awareness of the evaluator “as an instrument’' through which data is filtered.

The Psycho-Epistemological Profile (Royce, Mos, and Learsley, 1975) was selected to measure dominant epistemic styles among professional evaluators. A reliability study of the instrument was conducted using a sample of evaluators from the Michigan Association of Evaluators. From this group, three evaluators were chosen for semi-structured interviews from each of the dominant epistemic styles represented in the sample. The represented epistemic styles were rational, metaphoric, and eclectic (those evaluators not having a dominant epistemic style).

Content analysis of the interviews revealed that the major differences between dominant epistemic styles were not so much in how evaluators determined purpose or use of evaluation but more in the processes involved in evaluation. These processes were (1) roles that evaluators, clients, and stakeholders play and (2) how analysis of data was implemented. There were also differences in theoretical influences among epistemic styles.

From the interview data, a typology of evaluation practice was extrapolated. The typology was organized around four themes: (1) theory of action, (2) attitudes toward data, (3) focus on process and outcomes, and (4) theory and practice. The major difference was that the Metaphorics acted as change agents, the Rationals as educators, and the Eclectics as facilitators of improvement. All of these are related to a primary purpose of evaluation chosen by the three styles: to enable program staff to make changes that improve program effectiveness.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access