Formative Evaluation for Educational Technologies

Formative Evaluation for Educational Technologies

Formative Evaluation for Educational Technologies

Formative Evaluation for Educational Technologies


The designers of educational or training programs that employ electronic technology might have many questions about a project while it is still in the early stages of development. For instance: Is the program's presentation too simple, or too complex for its target audience? Does the pacing of the program help or hinder comprehension? Which aspects of the program are the most appealing, and why? Formative evaluation can answer these, or similar questions. It can help guide designers of television programs, microcomputer software, interactive videodiscs, or virtually any other educational item, in making modifications that can lead to the development of a final product that fully achieves its stated goals.

Until very recently, however, the person interested in avoiding potential problems through the use of formative evaluation would have been faced with difficulties of a different kind. Comprehensive treatment of formative evaluation has been scarce, and published discussion on formative evaluation of computer-based materials has been virtually nonexistent. Until now, that is.

Barbara Flagg's Formative Evaluation for Educational Technologies provides comprehensive treatment of formative evaluation. The book offers:

• extensive coverage of all the methods evaluators might use to assess the user friendliness, the appeal, and the outcome effectiveness of an educational program.

• extensive focus on new technologies

• coverage of all phases of program development, from initial idea to final product

• discussion of formative evaluation as part of the broader field of curriculum evaluation

• numerous case studies.

This volume will appeal to a wide variety of people engaged in formative evaluation. It is an excellent guide for newcomers to the field; it is a state-of-the art document for established practitioners of instructional design and curriculum evaluation.


The following comments were heard as 9- to 14-year-olds explored an interactive videodisc associated with the first season of the television program, The Voyage of the Mimi (Wilson, 1985a, pp. 3, 11, 13, 14):

"I want to see what everything does."

"The way it works is very good. I like it. All these keys, they move you around."

"We're zooming in, on one specific spot, and you know where that spot is? Ten Pound Island."

"Oh wow! Man!! Oh great!!! We're right in the port" (after zooming in from the USA map to a close-up on Gloucester).

"This is great!"

"It does all I want with the video image."

"The Voyage of the Mimi" videodisc energizes kids. Children respond with similar enthusiasm to the "Mimi" science and math television series and computer software produced by Bank Street College of Education in New York. Teachers report high student involvement and extensive learning opportunities (Storey & Julyan, 1985, pp. 44, 46):

I would say that the excitement level was very, very high and as a group it was certainly equal if not greater than anything that I've seen before. The students got more information in less time and probably retained more because there were different approaches each day. Different approaches spark their imagination in different ways and offer more than I could.

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