Academic journal article International Journal of Child Health and Human Development

Qualitative Evaluation of a Credit-Bearing Leadership Subject in Hong Kong

Academic journal article International Journal of Child Health and Human Development

Qualitative Evaluation of a Credit-Bearing Leadership Subject in Hong Kong

Article excerpt

Introduction

The quantitative-qualitative methodology debate appears to be everlasting in the field of evaluation (110). On the one hand, some researchers argued that quantitative and qualitative evaluation methods cannot be combined because they have different axiological and paradigmatic considerations (11, 12). According to Denzin and Lincoln (11), 'commensurability is an issue only when researchers want to "pick and choose" among the axioms of positivist and interpretivist models, because the axioms are contradictory and mutually exclusive' (p. 117). On the other hand, there are theorists arguing that both quantitative and qualitative methods are compatible for any evaluation research with reference to specific conditions of practice (13-16). Besides, the concept "methodological appropriateness" has been coined (13, 14, 17, 18). According to Patton (17), methodological appropriateness was defined as "matching the evaluation design to the evaluation situation taking into account the priority questions and intended uses of primary intended users, the costs and benefits of alternative designs, the decisions that are to be made, the level of evidence necessary to support those decisions, ethical considerations, and utility" (p. 460). Patton (17) further proposed eight developments contributing to the feasibility of methodological appropriateness. For example, there is a growing consensus on interdisciplinary and multimethod approaches to evaluation.

With specific reference to the recent discussions of paradigms in the field evaluation, there are three main paradigms. They are post-positivism, constructivism and related perspectives, and pragmatism (17, 19-21). For example, Alkin (19) pointed out that the goal of post-positivistic research is trying to measure universal truth and its causal relationships among variables, although a perfect understanding of the truth cannot be achieved because of various observational errors. Constructionists, however, do not believe in one single truth; there are many truths that are relative to one's cultural and historical experiences. Relationships are also interdependent and thus no linear causal relationship can be found. Hence, observational biases need not be controlled but acknowledged. Moreover, the pursuit of local relevant findings is more appreciated than searching for universal truth. Pragmatist, like constructionists, also believe in no one single truth but one explanation of reality can be regarded "truer" than the other at a given timeframe; they also believe in causal relationships, like post-positivists, but in a more sophisticated manner (21, 22).

Besides the choice of paradigm in evaluation, it is also important to consider which method is suitable to be used under what conditions. In fact, a review of literature in educational evaluation has also shown that many approaches and models are available for various uses. First, House (23) proposed various evaluation models such as the utilitarian and intuitionist/pluralist perspectives. Second, Worthen and Sanders (24) classified six alternative approaches to educational evaluation. They are objectivesoriented, management-oriented, consumer-oriented, expertise-oriented, adversary-oriented, as well as naturalistic and participant-oriented approaches. Third, Scriven (25) suggested another six types of evaluation approaches, including strong decision support view, weak decision support view, relativistic view, rich description approach, social process school, and constructivist approach. Fourth, Stufflebeam, Madaus, and Kellaghan (26) analyzed twenty-two program evaluation approaches to identify which approach is the most worthy one to be applied under certain conditions. Fifth, Cousins and Ryan (27) suggested four ongoing issues for educational evaluation, including evidence-based policy and programming, performance measurement, auditing and monitoring, learning and discovery-oriented evaluation, and values-oriented evaluation. …

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