Peak Experience Description

This option provides a succinct and coherent description of a program, project or policy when it is operating at its best.  This can then be used to develop a logic model (program theory) and to develop an evaluation plan to investigate how often it operates like this and how this can happen more often.

 The description is developed by asking individuals a series of related questions. These descriptions can then be combined to create a single description of the program, or they can be used to show different perspectives on what success looks like.

This option is important in terms of the information it produces and the effect of the evaluation process itself. It can be very useful in terms of identifying desired impacts, and suggesting aspects which should be addressed in developing a logic model. It is also a good way of engaging stakeholders in the evaluation, especially those whose previous experiences of evaluation have been negative.

This option is an important component of the approach “Appreciative Inquiry” and can also be added to evaluations which are not using the full approach.


An example taken from Preskill (2007) presentation on Using Appreciative Inquiry in Evaluation Practice:

"Maui High Performance Computing Center (MHPCC) Appreciative Inquiry Organizational Survey

Peak Experiences: In your work here, you have probably experienced ups and downs, some high points and low points. Think about a time that stands out to you as a high point- a time when you felt most involved, most effective, most engaged. It might have been recently or some time ago.

  • What was going on?
  • Who were the significant people involved?
  • What were the most important factors in the MHPCC that helped to make it a high-point experience? (e.g., leadership qualities, rewards, structure, relationships, skills, etc.)


Advice for CHOOSING this option (tips and traps)

  • Ensure that the use of this option is complemented by options which will empirically investigate the program or policy.  

Advice for USING this option (tips and traps)

  • Make sure you ask a range of people to provide a peak experience description.  Facilitate the conversation carefully to ensure that important differences are not lost.



Websites and Publications

  • Appreciative Inquiry Commons - The "AI Commons" is a worldwide portal devoted to the fullest sharing of academic resources and practical tools on Appreciative Inquiry and the rapidly growing discipline of positive change.
  • Appreciative Inquiry Practitioner - AI Practitioner is the international journal focusing on positive relational approaches to change such as Appreciative Inquiry.
  • The Taos Institute Newsletter - The Taos Institute is a community of scholars and practitioners concerned with the social processes essential for the construction of reason, knowledge, and human value. 


Preskill, H. (2007). Using Appreciative Inquiry in Evaluation Practice, AEA-CDC Summer Evaluation Institute, June 11-12, 2007. Atlanta, GA.

Updated: 21st August 2014 - 3:16pm
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