The Guiding Principles reflect the core values of the AEA and are intended as a guide to the professional ethical conduct of evaluators. The five Principles address systematic inquiry, competence, integrity, respect for people, and common good and equity. The Principles are interdependent and interconnected. At times, they might even conflict with one another. Therefore, evaluators should carefully examine how they justify professional actions.
The Principles govern the behavior of evaluators in all stages of the evaluation from the initial discussion of focus and purpose, through design, implementation, reporting, and ultimately the use of the evaluation.
The Principles are part of an evolving process of self-examination by the profession in the context of a rapidly changing world. They have been periodically revised since their first adoption in 1994. It is the policy of AEA to review the Principles at least every five years, engaging members in the process. These Principles are not intended to replace principles supported by other disciplines or associations in which evaluators participate.
Communication of Principles: It is primarily the evaluator's responsibility to initiate discussion and clarification of ethical matters with relevant parties to the evaluation. The Principles can be used to communicate to clients and other stakeholders what they can expect in terms of the professional ethical behavior of an evaluator.
Professional Development about Principles: Evaluators are responsible for understanding professional development to learn to engage in sound ethical reasoning. Evaluators are also encouraged to consult with colleagues on how best to identify and address ethical issues.
Structure of the Principles:Each Principle is accompanied by several sub statements to amplify the meaning of the overarching principles and to provide guidance for its application. These sub-statements do not include all possible applications of that principle, nor are they rules that provide the basis for sanctioning violators. The Principles are distinct from Evaluation Standards and evaluator competencies.
Common Good - the shared benefit for all or most members of society including equitable opportunities and outcomes that are achieved through citizenship and collective action. The common good includes cultural, social, economic, and political resources as well as natural resources involving shared materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth.
Contextual Factors - geographic location and conditions; political, technological, environmental, and social climate; cultures; economic and historical conditions; language, customs, local norms, and practices; timing; and other factors that may influence an evaluation process or its findings.
Culturally Competent Evaluator - "[an evaluators who] draws upon a wide range of evaluation theories and methods to design and carry out an evaluation that is optimally matched to the context. In constructing a model or theory of how the evaluation operates, the evaluator reflects the diverse values and perspectives of key stakeholder groups,'"11
Environment - the surroundings or conditions in which a being lives or operates; the setting or conditions in which a particular activity occurs.
Equity - the condition of fair and just opportunities for all people to participate and thrive in society regardless of individual or group identity or difference. Striving to achieve equity includes mitigating historic disadvantage and existing structural inequalities.
Guiding Principles vs. Evaluation Standards - the Guiding Principles pertain to the ethical conduct of the evaluator whereas the Evaluation Standards pertain to the quality of the evaluation.
People or Groups - those who may be affected by an evaluation including, but not limited to, those defined by race, ethnicity, religion, gender, income, status, health, ability, power, underrepresentation, and/or disenfranchisement.
Professional Judgment - decisions or conclusions based on ethical principles and professional standards for evidence and argumentation in the conduct of an evaluation.
Stakeholders - individuals, groups, or organizations served by, or with a legitimate interest in, an evaluation including those who might be affected by an evaluation.
11 American Evaluation Association (2011). Public Statement on Cultural Competence
in Evaluation. Washington DC: Author. p. 3.
A. Systematic Inquiry: Evaluators conduct data-based inquiries that are thorough, methodical, and contextually relevant.
B. Competence: Evaluators provide skilled professional services to stakeholders.
C. Integrity: Evaluators behave with honesty and transparency in order to ensure the integrity of the evaluation.
D. Respect for People: Evaluators honor the dignity, well-being, and self-worth of individuals and acknowledge the influence of culture within and across groups.
E. Common Good and Equity: Evaluators strive to contribute to the common good and advancement of an equitable and just society.
To download the Guiding Principles in PDF format, click here. To obtain hardcopies of the Guiding Principles, please contact the AEA office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-367-1166.
The Guiding principles were last updated in 2018 with input from the Guiding Principles Task Force, AEA Leadership, and AEA Members.