The value of evaluation: A case study of evaluating strategic plan initiatives

Margaret L Dalrymple, Purdue University


The current environment of oversight and accountability, along with declining state support for higher education, have prompted many universities to utilize strategic planning in order to achieve their objectives. Yet strangely, relatively little research has been done on evaluation models for assessing strategic planning in higher education institutions. This study endeavors to shed some much-needed light on how higher education institutions have assessed their university-wide strategic plans by focusing on their evaluation methods. This study focuses on the methodology of various approaches, and does not determine whether those strategic plans have been effective or not. Rather, the dissertation examines the methods used in collecting data and evidence during the evaluation phase, the final stage of strategic planning. The dissertation follows the design of a multiple case study, the cases selected being higher education institutions located within the United States, affiliated with the Association of American Universities (AAU), and in the initial stage of the evaluation of their university-wide strategic plans. Within the multiple cases, the study’s data (coded using a logic model) is derived from detailed document analysis, a survey, and interviews. Results of the study reveal several key factors in a systematic evaluation of strategic planning initiatives: communication, leadership, culture, and integration of budgeting and planning. Exemplar characteristics drawn from the study’s findings result in a conceptual evaluation model. This model has, five elements: a summarization and exploration of the relational issues of influences and resources; a review of activities and processes; an analysis of data; an assessment of the consequence, outcomes, and/or the effectiveness of the plan; and stakeholder participation in the evaluation. These elements provide the basis for an evaluation methodology that a higher education institution can apply to its strategic plan initiative. The conceptual evaluation model may thus provide academic practitioners with a comprehensive tool with which to evaluate their own institutions’ strategic plans. The findings will potentially benefit academic leaders, strategic planners, and institutional researchers by identifying the critical components of evaluation of a university-wide strategic plan.




Bennett, Purdue University.

Subject Area

School administration|Higher education

Off-Campus Purdue Users:
To access this dissertation, please log in to our
proxy server