Evaluation in Education: Foundations of Competency Assessment and Program Review

Evaluation in Education: Foundations of Competency Assessment and Program Review

Evaluation in Education: Foundations of Competency Assessment and Program Review

Evaluation in Education: Foundations of Competency Assessment and Program Review


Educational evaluation has changed considerably since Wolf's first edition. The value of his ideas has not. This third edition extends and refines the first. Wolf identifies basic questions addressed in studies and information needed to answer those questions. Throughout, he advocates an eclectic approach--combining qualitative and quantitative techniques. Wolf adds new material including a chapter on the contemporary scene. Text or handbook, this comprehensive volume covers the history of evaluation, planning and conducting studies, analysis of results, report preparation, and decision making.


The preparation of a new edition of a book is a test of the durability of one's ideas. When I began writing the first edition of this book almost fifteen years ago, I was trying to address issues in the field of evaluation as I saw them then. I recognized that the field was in its early stages of development and was likely to change considerably over time. Of course, I had no idea how the field would change. Accordingly, I decided to take as nondoctrinaire an approach to evaluation as I could. In my case, this meant identifying questions that might be asked when undertaking an evaluation study and the kinds of information one would need in order to answer those questions. In contrast, a number of writers at that time were staking out various ideological positions in evaluation. Some, for example, regarded true experiments as the only way to estimate the effects of educational programs while others regarded evaluation as nothing more than a fact-gathering enterprise for administrators. I felt that such strong positions were unwarranted in a fledgling field.

My sense now is that my initial decision was not only prudent but also wise. The basic questions that must be addressed when conducting an evaluation study and the classes of information needed to answer those questions have not changed in the intervening years. Furthermore, the absence of a specific doctrine has enabled me to avoid getting entangled in useless arguments. Thus, the present edition should be seen more as an extension and refinement of some basic ideas than as a wholly new work. Of course, there is new material here--even a new chapter. But this should be seen as additional layers on the same structure.

While the basic views presented in this book have not changed, the field of evaluation has. It has gone from its infancy to become an established field. This is reflected throughout this edition, but especially in chapter fourteen. There is much that one can point to with pride in the field, and some of this is described in that chapter. But there are some dark clouds on the horizon.

There is a growing debate in the social sciences about method. For most of the past half century, the social sciences have attempted to develop objective measurement procedures to be used in as scientifically rigorous a way as possible. The collection of views, approaches, and the like that have traditionally been used come under the general heading of "positivism." There is, of course, much more to positivism than this, but it can suffice for now. Various people have expressed dissatisfaction with positivism for a number of reasons . . .

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