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

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

Chapter 8

Inviting Collaboration: Insights into Researcher-School Community Partnerships

Lyn M. Shulha and Robert J. Wilson


Introduction

Because program evaluation is rooted in the search for accountability, a central criterion for judging its success has been the degree to which the results have been used for instructional purposes by clients. Perhaps because this criterion has not often been shown to be met, and perhaps, more fundamentally, because of developments in program evaluation theory, new purposes for evaluation have been suggested. These include such goals as improving curricula and programs (Cronbach, 1963; Stufflebeam, 1983); engaging stakeholders in reflection and decision making (Guba and Lincoln, 1989; Patton, 1986; Stake, 1983; Stufflebeam, 1969); shaping the development of policy (Grob, 1992; Weiss, 1988); and, most recently, facilitating organizational learning through researcher-practitioner linkages (Cousins and Earl, 1992; House, in Alkin, 1990).

Some of these newer purposes suggest a larger role for collaboration and partnership among the many participants involved in programs and their evaluations. Collaboration, however, can mean different things to those engaged in the practice. With no documentation on how this process differs from traditional practice, or how its own variations differ, there is a danger that the concept itself will be lost in ambiguity.


Collaboration in this Study

Robert Wilson is a professor of measurement and evaluation in the Faculty of Education, Queen's University. He and colleagues (Wilson, 1992a; Wilson 1992b; Wilson, 1990; Wilson and Rees, 1990) have investigated how the assessment of student achievement proceeds in classrooms and schools. One of the emerging conclusions from this work is that teachers assess in the way they do largely as a result of having to fulfill the policies and procedures in their school concerning reporting. Merely removing these policies, however, is not seen as sufficient to change student evaluation practice because the practice of documenting student achievement is likely to have become integrated into the whole fabric of classroom life.

In our view, if real progress is to be made in understanding assessment practices, teachers need to become collaborators in developing that understanding. A first step in allowing that understanding to grow would be to have a school abandon the traditional

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