Planned Variation evaluations implement and compare two or more promising variations of an educational or social program. In this paper, I argue that Planned Variation evaluations may be especially attractive to teachers and program operators, as well as university-based researchers. The establishment of university-based centers for evaluation could support wide-scale implementation of Planned Variation projects. These projects could facilitate the substitution of effective program variants for ineffective variants, bringing Campbell's (1984) vision of the experimenting society to reality and fostering the use of research results. This paper contrasts the Planned Variation approach with participatory, empowerment, collaborative, utilization-focused, and black-box experimental approaches. The Planned Variation Cross-Validation Model is described and contrasted with alternative models for fostering improvement in social programs.
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I gratefully acknowledge Melvin Mark for helpful comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript. The writing of this paper was made possible through support from the Spencer Foundation.