Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Psychology and Research

Major Professor

Jennifer Morrow

Committee Members

Gary Skolits, Steve McCallum, Jennifer Richards


Evaluation use is a major goal of program evaluators, because it can lead to program improvement and sustainability. This dissertation adds to the literature on ―Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs‖ (GEAR UP) grant evaluation use by assessing (1) the extent to which project directors of state grants use evaluation results (i.e., instrumental use, conceptual use, persuasive use, and/or process use), (2) the extent to which the evaluations of the state GEAR UP grant programs have had an influence at the individual, interpersonal, and collective levels, and (3) what factors have an impact on the use of those results (i.e., quality of the evaluation, decision and policy setting factors). Additionally, this dissertation provides insight into GEAR UP administrators‘ expectations for evaluation use among state GEAR UP grant project directors and support systems for evaluation use.

The participants in this study were 17 current state GEAR UP grant project directors. Electronic copies of surveys and links to an online survey were emailed to participants and paper-and-pencil surveys were distributed during the 2009 National Council for Community Education Partnerships (NCCEP)/GEAR UP Capacity Building Workshop in New Orleans, LA. Telephone interviews were conducted with former NCCEP officials. Descriptive analyses were used to address each research question.

Results indicated that GEAR UP project directors are using their programs‘ evaluations for instrumental, conceptual, symbolic, and process-related purposes. Project directors reported evaluation influence at the individual, interpersonal, and collective levels. Both implementation factors and decision and policy setting factors had an impact on project directors‘ decisions to use their programs‘ evaluations. Most of the former NCCEP staff interviewed had high expectations for use of evaluation results by state project directors. Former NCCEP staff members were able to provide a number of examples of cases where states were using their programs‘ evaluations. All of the former NCCEP staff members interviewed said that they thought project directors had been encouraged and trained to promote use. Former NCCEP staff also identified a number of barriers to directors‘ use of their programs evaluations and provided some suggestions for addressing these barriers.

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