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

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

Chapter 1

The Case for Participatory Evaluation: Theory, Research, Practice

J.Bradley Cousins and Lorna M. Earl


'Show Me'

The teacher's role has and will continue to evolve at a rather sharp pace as schools persevere into the next century with a variety of tensions and conflicts. There seems to be little question that norms of privacy and isolation from peers and colleagues are under siege. At the same time, teachers' resolve to protect longstanding interests and to maintain a territorial stance on classroom decision making is pervasive and strong. Teachers are just plain unwilling to make a fundamental shift simply because a new idea sounds good. Blind acceptance of new direction and expansion in the role is not enough. Not unlike Missouri state automobile licence plates that proudly convey to the world the state's nickname and a people's disposition toward 'high falutin' proposals and ideas, teachers are saying 'show me'.

This book is about the acceptance of a relatively new direction and expansion of the role for educators. In particular, the focus for discussion, debate and deliberation is teachers' and principals' involvement on school- and system-based applied research projects; activities that clearly fall outside traditionally defined teaching roles. All things considered, why on earth would teachers and principals want to become involved in applied research activities, ventures that are entirely likely to spell hard work, heightened anxiety, tension and stress, and general disequilibrium? We have some distinct ideas about the answer to this question. The basis for our ideas is several years of experience working in schools and school systems with educators on applied research projects of local interest. We have seen the benefits and we have seen the pitfalls. We have hurdled obstacles and we have run into brick walls. But we continue to pursue with alacrity, opportunities to work in partnership with our practice-based colleagues and we absolutely delight in their invitations to come back. We understand and accept that our delights are not sufficient to persuade others. We also appreciate that by merely presenting our rationale for embracing collaborative research projects, no matter how coherent, attractive or 'high falutin', we will not even begin to persuade the uninitiated. We know that the proud message of the hearts and licence plates of Missourans defines the path that we must take. That message provides both the starting point and the impetus for this book.

-3-

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