Participatory Evaluation in Education: Studies in Evaluation Use and Organizational Learning

By J. Bradley Cousins; Lorna M. Earl | Go to book overview

Preface

This is a book about change in educational organizations. Specifically, it is about the conscious integration into the normal operations of schools and school systems of very deliberative processes of systematic inquiry and applied research methods. In it we explore what it is that researchers, either those employed internally within the systems or in some capacity external to them, can bring to the change process and how what is brought is received. Our intention throughout the book is to reflect critically on the processes we advocate. At the outset, we adopt a posture that acknowledges the deficiencies of merely describing, however enthusiastically, our success stories and sharing our opinions about the role of applied research and researchers in the educational organizational context. We have compiled an original set of empirical studies with data collected, in the most part, from teachers, school administrators, district administrators and researchers; the people directly involved in or affected by the collaborative research processes of interest. It is through their eyes and voices that we add to our knowledge about the sensibility and the potential viability of 'participatory evaluation' as an approach to organizational change in education.

Though most certainly of interest both to applied researchers and academics, this book is written for educators. It is written for teachers and administrators. Those who have had some prior exposure to or involvement in applied research activities, and those who have not. Especially, this book is written for those who are intrigued by the possibilities of applied research as a change lever and, in some sense, are seriously considering this route.

Part 1 begins with an overview of what we describe as participatory evaluation, couched in a conceptual backdrop of theory, research and practical experience. Chapter 1 culminates with an agenda for research and a challenge to researchers. Our first step toward meeting this challenge was to organize a symposium at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association (Division H, School Evaluation) held in Atlanta, Georgia, April 1993. At the symposium, five independent empirical studies spanning a wide range of educational contexts and locations were presented. In each of these studies, now presented in Part 2 (chapters 2 through 6 written by ourselves and Clay Lafleur, Linda Lee and Jean King), applications of participatory evaluation were critically considered from different perspectives. At the symposium, Michael Huberman and Marvin C. Alkin provided critical syntheses of the papers. Subsequently, Michael Huberman presented his ideas in chapter 7 and Marvin Alkin's ideas were passed along in written correspondence and incorporated into chapter 10. Along the way to drawing together the themes and ideas emerging from the studies we encountered fortuitous opportunities to enhance the collection with additional empirical studies that add to the richness of the evidence we present and consider. Chapters by Lyn Shulha and Bob Wilson and by Donna Mertens, Terry Berkeley and Susan Lopez appear in Part 3 and

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