The questions of who values, with whom, in what ways, and under what conditions concern all evaluators but are explicitly considered by some theorists more than others. Theorists placed on the valuing branch of Christie and Alkin’s (2013) evaluation theory tree emphasise valuing in their conceptualisation of evaluation, but even among these theorists there is diversity in the ways in which valuing is considered and realised in evaluation practice. This article explores this diversity within one aspect of valuing—the valuing involved in reaching a warranted conclusion about the overall merit, worth, or significance of an evaluand. It considers the extent to which the literature discusses overall evaluative conclusions as an element of evaluation practice; the extent to which drawing such conclusions is seen as the responsibility of the evaluator or stakeholders; and the methods that may be used to reach a warranted evaluative conclusion. The author concludes that there has been little empirical research undertaken on the valuing involved in reaching a warranted conclusion about the overall merit, worth, or significance of an evaluand. Much of the literature is evaluators theorising from different epistemological positions. Thus, while the literature does not definitively inform evaluators of whether they should always reach an overall evaluative conclusion, who they should involve, and what methods they should use, this review does support evaluators to reflect on these issues in their practice, and to make deliberate, informed decisions about the making—or not—of overall conclusions or judgements in future evaluations.
Free full text: