Essentials of Theory-Based Evaluation

Learning goals

After this workshop, participants have developed an initial sound understanding of the role of program theory in evaluation and how to apply theory-based evaluation in practice. More specifically, participants will have a greater understanding of:

- Different purposes and uses of program theory in evaluation,

- Principles for reconstructing a program theory,


Interventions are theories and evaluation is the test. This well-known reference is indicative of an influential school of thought and practice in evaluation, often called theory-driven or theory-based evaluation. Policy interventions (e.g. programs and projects) rely on underlying theories regarding how they are intended to work and contribute to processes of change. These theories (usually called program theories, theories of change, or intervention theories) are often made explicit in documents, but sometimes only exist in the minds of stakeholders. Program theories (whether explicit or tacit) guide the design and implementation of policy interventions and also constitute an important basis for evaluation. This workshop mainly focuses on the latter and provides an overview of the essentials of theory-based evaluation.

The workshop covers the following topics:

- What do we mean by program theory

- Why is program theory important (in evaluation)

- What are the sources of program theory

- How can we develop program theory

- How do we use program theory as a framework for evaluation..

Areas of expertise
  • Methodological skills /knowledge
Implementing institution/s or person/s (incl. short description)

Jos Vaessen

Scope (duration)

2.5 days long

Target groups

Evaluators (commissioners, policy makers).

The workshop is intended to provide essential knowledge to professionals who are at the start of or in the early phases of their career in evaluation. More experienced evaluators may find the empirical examples

Other Information

The workshop provides an introduction to theory-based evaluation.

Participation requirements

Knowledge of the practice of evaluation (e.g. as provided by the IPDET core course) is highly desirable.

The workshop provides a useful introduction to the advanced workshop on Theory-based causal analysis conducted by Dr. Estelle Raimondo.