Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Educational Measurement and Research

Major Professor

Liliana Rodriguez-Campos, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Robert F. Dedrick, Ph.D.

Committee Member

John M. Ferron, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Waynne B. James, Ph.D.


aquariums, evaluative thinking, psychological safety, zoos


Mission-based organizations like zoos and aquariums are investing in evaluation capacity to help them improve their mission performance, but are these resources improving their professional culture, or merely creating evaluations? This study surveyed the leadership from 100 programming departments at accredited U.S. zoos and aquariums to learn how work with professional evaluators might be related to the nature of an organization’s evaluation culture. Survey results showed no statistically significant relationships between a self-reported measure of evaluation culture and either institutional demographics or work with professional evaluators. Follow-up interviews with nine case study organizations, however, were more supportive of the role evaluators play in improving practice, suggesting management or structural limitations may be limiting impact. An exploratory factor analysis revealed the emergent construct of psychological safety as a potential new avenue for future research around the antecedents of evaluation culture. Reflections from case study interviews and existing literature are synthesized to offer recommendation for professional practice.