This is a pre-publication version of an entry in the International Encyclopedia of Education, 3rd Edition. Please note the correct citation in the text and refer to the final version in the print version of the IEE.
Mathison, S. (2010). The purpose of evaluation. In P. Peterson, B. McGaw & E. Baker (Eds.). The International Encyclopedia of Education, 3rd ed. Elsevier Publishers.
There are two primary purposes of evaluation in education: accountability and amelioration. Both purposes operate at multiple levels in education from individual learning to bounded, focused interventions to whole organizations, such as schools or colleges. Accountability is based primarily on summative evaluations, that is, evaluations of fully formed evaluands and are often used for making selection and resource allocation decisions. Amelioration is based primarily on formative evaluation, that is, evaluations of plans or developing evaluands and are used to facilitate planning and improvement. Socio-political forces influence the purpose of evaluation.