Evaluations are a useful tool to learn more about the effectiveness of public measures. In the era of evidence-based policymaking, recent research suggests that quality is an important determinant of the utilisation of evaluations. Despite this claim, hardly any empirical study has investigated whether the quality of an evaluation – measured by a meta-evaluation – influences its perceived utilisation by decision makers.
This article asks how the quality of an evaluation study is related to its perceived use, and investigates the relationship between the quality of an evaluation, assessed through a meta-evaluation, and how the evaluation is perceived and accepted by the parties concerned.
The basis for the empirical analyses were 34 external evaluations, conducted from 2006 to 2014, of upper secondary schools in the canton of Zurich, as well as a standardised survey conducted among 307 representatives of these schools (teachers, administrators, members of quality development teams, and the heads of school oversight commissions).
We conclude that the quality of the evaluation, as assessed in a meta-evaluation, is not particularly associated with the perception of evaluation quality and the perceived use of the evaluation. The perceived quality, however, is related to the perceived impact of an evaluation.
These findings are relevant for evaluation research and practice, since they show that the quality of an evaluation and evaluation use do not necessarily go hand in hand.
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