Developmental Evaluation – Evaluation for Adaptive Interventions

Julia Laidlaw

This week we’re featuring Developmental Evaluation to coincide with EvalPartners’ e-learning unit on the approach as part of its e-Learning course on Equity-focused Evaluations.

Developmental Evaluation, developed by Michael Patton, is an approach to evaluation that is designed for adaptive and emergent interventions, such as social change initiatives or projects operating in complex and uncertain environments.

Sign up for EvalPartners’ free e-learning course, including the unit on Developmental Evaluation.

To find out more about this approach you can also check out the page on Developmental Evaluation on the BetterEvaluation site. It has an overview and links to many resources. They include presentations by and interviews with Michael Quinn Patton about Developmental Evaluation such as:

  • Developmental evaluation - this webpage provides links to six audio files of an interview between Mark Cabaj and Michael Patton on development evaluation in which they discuss: the power of evaluation thinking; the value of evaluation in developmental situations; the what & why of “patch evaluation”; and concepts & tools for working with developmental evaluation (total running time: 8 mins)
  • Developmental evaluation as alternative to formative assessmentMichael Quinn Patton outlines the differences between developmental, formative and summative evaluation by describing DE as an evaluation that can be used for a developing or emerging initiative while summative and formative evaluation are used to examine established programs. (total running time: 3 mins)
  • Developmental Evaluation Presentation - in this slide show from the AEA Public Library, Michael Quinn Patton draws on content from his book Developmental Evaluation: Applying Complexity Concepts to Enhance Innovation and Use to outline the basics of DE and position it as an alternative to formative and summative evaluation. (23 pages) 
  • Planning and Evaluating for Social Change: An Evening at SFU with Michael Quinn Patton - in this presentation, Michael Quinn Patton focuses on the changing landscape of evaluation through the use of  examples and interactive exercises in order to demonstrate how a developmental evaluation framework can be used to connect people and create more effective social change strategies. (total running time: 1.5 hrs)

There are also summaries of Patton's books and other Developmental Evaluation guides:

If you are looking for descriptions and analysis by others who have used developmental evaluation (including presentations from the 2011 and 2012 conferences of the American Evaluation Association (AEA)), some great resources are available through the AEA Public eLibrary. Check these out: