Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Agricultural Education and Studies

First Advisor

Nancy Grudens-Schuck

Second Advisor

Carl W. Roberts


This research was conceived on the premise that a good evaluation plan for a program begins with explicating the program's essential conceptual underpinnings, namely the program theory. Theory-based evaluation is generally recognized as enhancing the quality of evaluation. However, the theory-based approach remains underutilized in evaluation of federal competitive grants programs. The goal of the research was to depict a coherent description of program theory for the Higher Education Challenge (HEC) grants program grounded on core aspects of theories developed in two studies. The research used quantitative content analysis to systematically study the texts of Request for Application (RFA) for the HEC grants program. The analysis centered on examining linear changes and continuity in emphasis during eleven years of the HEC's implementation. Eight themes were identified indicating trends toward continuity and changes. These themes were used to draw inferences about the HEC's program theory. The research also employed an oral history study to describe the HEC program developers' assumptions about a rationale for the way this program was structured. Utilizing narrative analysis, six program's intentionalities were identified. These intentionalities were used to describe the HEC's program theory and map eight chains of positive consequences to explain how the HEC grants program was intended to bring about its effects. The findings of both studies were used to construct a coherent depiction of the HEC's program theory and develop recommendations to inform this program's evaluation.;Keywords. agricultural education; competitive grants program; content analysis; evaluation; oral history; program theory; US Department of Agriculture



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Elena Yu Polush



Proquest ID


OCLC Number




File Format


File Size

242 pages