Academic journal article International Journal of Child Health and Human Development

Qualitative Evaluation of a Leadership and Intrapersonal Development Subject for University Students in Hong Kong

Academic journal article International Journal of Child Health and Human Development

Qualitative Evaluation of a Leadership and Intrapersonal Development Subject for University Students in Hong Kong

Article excerpt


Evaluation serves as an assessment tool for helping program implementers to understand the impact and effectiveness of a program (1). It allows the implementers to improve the quality of the program by carrying out continuous evaluations throughout the implementation process (2). Two main approaches, quantitative and qualitative approaches, are often used in conducting evaluation. The quantitative approach relies on numerical data to assess how the participants perceive a program at different time points (3). Qualitative approach focuses on the evaluation of comprehensive and in-depth thoughts as well as experience of the participants (4). As qualitative approach can generate data which can capture the experiences of the program participants, a qualitative approach was adopted in this study to evaluate a subject on leadership and intrapersonal development developed for university students in Hong Kong.

In the field of program evaluation, metaphor analysis is one of the major types of qualitative research. It not only serves as a key for people to communicate some abstract thinking and experience (5), it also makes the complex information more structured and clearer (6). There are several metaphor theories, including salience-imbalance theory (7), domains-interaction theory (8), class-inclusion theory (9) and conceptual metaphor theory (10). Among these theories, conceptual metaphor theory is the most popular method in educational and psychology research.

Conceptual metaphor theory, also known as cognitive metaphor theory, is often used to understand the abstract concepts and reasoning in our daily life (10). A conceptual metaphor not only shapes our communication, but also influences the way we think and act. According to Lakoffand Johnson (10), "communication is based on the same conceptual system that we use in thinking and acting, language is an important source of evidence for what the system is like" (p. 3). In other words, it is not only a property of language (i.e., a linguistic phenomenon), but also a property of thought (i.e., a cognitive phenomenon) (10, 11).

A conceptual metaphor consists of two domains; they are the target (also name as "topic" or "tenor") and the source (also referred to as "vehicle") (10). The target domain is the conceptual domain that we try to comprehend, while the source domain is the conceptual domain from which we use metaphorical expression to understand another conceptual domain. The metaphor can be understood as a mapping from a source domain, that is, sets of conceptual correspondences (10). For example, "life" (the source) is a "journey" (target). According to Lakoff(12), the life as journey mapping is "a set of ontological correspondences that characterize epistemic correspondence by mapping knowledge about journeys onto knowledge about life" (p. 207). These correspondences allow us to reason about life using the knowledge we use to reason about journeys.

Despite the common use of conceptual metaphor analysis (13-15), little is known whether it can be employed in assessing the extent to which a program achieves the learning outcomes in tertiary education contexts. In particular, it would be helpful to understand how university students perceive a course by using this method. With reference to the Chinese contexts, metaphors have been used in different education contexts. For example, Shek and colleagues used this method to understand students' perception toward a positive youth development program (4, 16) and two university leadership courses (17-19).

There are several advantages of using metaphors to evaluate the effectiveness of a course. First, more novel ideas and inspirations on how students perceived the course could be obtained by mapping between the metaphors and their learning process (20, 21). Second, it provides an alternative way to understand the subjects which emphasize holistic personal growth and development. By using conceptual metaphors, students could reflect on their learning and past experience, which in turn yields a more genuine perception with less embellishing thoughts towards the course. …

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