Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Chris L. S. Coryn

Second Advisor

Dr. Janet M. Clinton

Third Advisor

Dr. Frans Leeuw


Evaluation, values, evaluation theory, maternal health, maternal and child health


Values are a central component in evaluation and are prominently discussed in evaluation theory, but relatively little is known about how they are used in practice. The theory-practice gap in evaluation may cause unsound evaluation practice or irrelevant or impractical evaluation theory. However, little is known about this gap as it relates to values and valuing. Failing to take certain values into account in an evaluation risks reinforcing the status quo to the detriment of vulnerable populations, so identifying how the theory-practice gap plays out in the use of values is important.

This study focuses on the maternal and child health sector, due to the vulnerability of its target populations and the implications of biases that could serve to disadvantage or harm those populations if not addressed. Many questions remain about which values to use in evaluations, which are most important, and how these align with which values are actually used in evaluation practice. These questions can be summarized as the consideration, prioritization, and incorporation of values. This study analyzes the values expressed in theory, their relative importance, and how these compare to the values addressed in practice.

This mixed-methods study uses a three-phase design to examine the consideration, prioritization, and incorporation of values in evaluations in the maternal and child health sector. A qualitative content analysis of evaluation theory and maternal and child health organizational literature is used to compile a list of values. This list is subjected to a member check with experts in evaluation theory and maternal and child health in order to verify the comprehensiveness and relevance of the values and to rate their importance. A computer-aided text analysis is used to determine to what extent these values appear in evaluations in the maternal and child health sector.

Findings indicate that values that are considered “most important” are also addressed most consistently in both evaluations and maternal and child health organizational literature. Both evaluation reports and organizational literature differ somewhat in which values they express depending on which organizations they come from or what interventions they address. Evaluations typically address a broader range of values than organizational literature, perhaps because organizational literature tends to have narrower purposes, topics, or audiences. Future research is recommended to broaden the scope of the investigation into the use of values into other contexts.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access