Setting Standards of Performance for Program Evaluations

The Case of the Teaching Hospital General Medicine Group Practice Program

Published In: Evaluation and Program Planning, v. 9, no. 2, 1986, p. 143-151

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 1986

by Arlene Fink, Jacqueline Kosecoff, Robert H. Brook

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Program evaluation is like research in its use of the scientific method. An important difference is that evaluations result in judgments of merit. What are the standards for making the judgments? Little attention has been paid to their selection and use. This article reports on how standards were set in an evaluation of the structure of fifteen of the nation's university hospitals who participated in the Teaching Hospital General Medicine Group Practice Program (sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation). Many sources were used to select standards including a review of the literature, expert advice and actual data from two years of the programs's performance. Also, the standard-setting process was a participatory one in which all potentially competing views were provided with a forum for discussion. Finally, standards were set in advance of the collection of information, facilitating the selection of study designs and analysis techniques. Almost all project directors stated that the process helped them in program planning and gave them ideas for research and evaluation. Because standard-setting has mutual benefits, we recommend that it take place during program planning.

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