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

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

Chapter 6

Involving Practitioners in Evaluation Studies: How Viable is Collaborative Evaluation in Schools?

Jean A. King


Introduction

The notion of involving practitioners in a school-based research * process is not new. At the turn of the century, John Dewey gave teachers and students direct roles in ongoing inquiry, and the progressive tradition, with newfound support from the teacher researcher movement (Stenhouse, 1975), has continued to encourage that practice in schools. Action research, named by social psychologist Kurt Lewin in the late 1940s, brought together university-based researchers with community individuals to engage in collaborative problem solving about some of the most difficult issues of the day. The related rise of educational action research in the 1950s (Corey, 1953; Taba and Noel, 1957) pointed to the potential of research collaboration to effect meaningful change in schools. However, a number of factors-for example, the lack of time for such work in the traditional school day; methodological challenges from the research community; and the development of a federally-funded Research, Development, and Diffusion (RD&D) model following the launch of Sputnik-led, until recently, to the decline of collaborative research in the United States (King and Lonnquist, 1992). 1 The currently burgeoning literature on teacher research (e.g., Kincheloe, 1991; CochranSmith and Lytle, 1993) and educational action research (e.g., Holly and Whitehead, 1984) points to the re-emergence of this process as a means of professional development, school improvement, and, some would claim (e.g., McTaggart, 1991), long-term social change.

In contrast, the field of program evaluation, developed in part to meet the evaluation needs of the federally funded RD&D model, has traditionally assigned school-based educational practitioners a different role. Stereotypically, they are first the data sources and last the potential recipients of the products of evaluation. Whether or not anyone uses these products-and what it might take to get someone to do so-has been a topic of discussion in the evaluation use literature for well over a decade (see Alkin, Daillak and White, 1979; King and Pechman, 1982; Patton, 1986).

* The conceptual distinction between the terms research and evaluation is important, and many would label the processes that I am discussing here evaluation. However, throughout the paper, I use the two terms interchangeably, in part because 'action research' appropriately includes the word research, and in part because I am taking linguistic liberty for the sake of variety in my language.

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