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BOOK REVIEWS

Evaluation
Pauline Rea-Dickens and Kevin Germaine. Oxford: Oxford
1992. 175 pp. Paperback

University Press.

Reviewed by
Annie Brown
University of Melbourne
Australia

In the introduction to this book


the authors begin by stating that
&dquo;evaluation is an intrinsic part of
teaching and leaming&dquo;. Evaluation,
as they so clearly point out, is not

merely

procedure imposed by

external agencies, rather it is a


process that all teachers undertake
on a regular basis, whether in a
planned and systematic way or
informally. Many of the decisions
that teachers make, such as

selecting textbooks, commenting on


success of a particular lesson
or activity or determining the

the

arrangement of
based

on some

classroom,

are

form of evaluation.

This book is in the excellent


series Language teaching: a scheme
for teaching education, edited by
Chris
Candlin
and
Henry
Widdowson, and maintains the
standards set by the other books in
the series. The stated aim of the

book is to &dquo;show practitioners such


as language teachers and curriculum
developers how useful evaluation
is, and how to do it for themselves.&dquo;
The format of the book follows the
others in the series, in that it
provides a series of strategically
placed &dquo;tasks&dquo; or questions,
designed to ensure that the
important concepts are understood
by getting the reader to reflect on
her own practice.

The book is an introductory text,


intended for teachers who are new
to the process of programme
evaluation. While it recognises that
most teachers will have had some
experience of evaluating their own
or colleagues work informally, it
out
a
framework for
sets
in a
evaluation
approaching
and
systematic, explicit
principled
way.

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Being principled is important in


order to ensure that all aspects of
the teaching programme are
considered (such as methods,
teacher effectiveness, learner
attitudes, materials, classroom
activities,
Further, as

management,

etc).

are

worthwhile)

requires

an

of the context in which


the programme takes place, from
the classroom to the school, region
and society. The context, of course,
also determines the teachers
authority to introduce change,
awareness

it
is not enough simply to evaluate
the success of a particular
programme; reasons for its success
(or failure) must also be sought. It
is not enough, therefore, to evaluate
programmes on their outcomes
alone; rather the process of teaching
and learning must be considered
equally important and form an
intrinsic part of the evaluation, as
this is where the reasons for the
outcomes will be found.

hence any evaluation findings must


also be considered in the light of
the whole context.

What is the purpose of


evaluation? It may be to explain and
confirm existing procedures, or it
may be to gain information in order
to bring about innovation and

Chapter 1 discusses the nature


of evaluation, its role in educational
management, and the relationship
between evaluation and the context
in which it is undertaken. Chapter
2 deals with purposes for evaluation
these being divided into general
evaluation purposes, such as
accountability, curriculum betterment and teacher development, and
specific purposes such as evaluation
of teaching and learning materials,
of teachers and teaching, and of
learner outcomes. Each of these is
discussed in some detail, with
examples of the types of evaluation
techniques appropriate to each.

the authors

point out,

change. Evaluation, according


the authors, is
ness

to

useful conscious-

raising technique, through

which teachers will become more


aware of their classroom practices
and hence more able to introduce
innovations effectively. Effective
evaluation (i.e., not simply an
assessment of learner performance
in terms of the objectives of the
programme, but a consideration of
whether the objectives themselves

The book is divided into three


sections. Section 1 deals with the
nature of evaluation and its role in
education. This section is extremely
clearly written, taking the reader
through step by step, starting from
the nature and purpose of

evaluation,

to

how to

implement

programme of evaluation.

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In Chapter 3 the authors


consider how teachers can best
evaluate their own classrooms. The
usefulness of various techniques
and

approaches,

measurement-

based and descriptive data-based,


are considered. The authors dismiss
measurement-based approaches
(testing) as being of limited use, and
only relevant in formal, summative
evaluations. While it may be the
case that evaluations done by
teachers tend to be formative rather
than summative and hence more
reliant on qualitative data, this does
seem a rather sweeping dismissal
of what could potentially be a useful
tool in a range of contexts. Further,
by dismissing tests out of hand the
authors fail to discuss the difference
between a good and a bad test,
which, if tests are to be used as one
tool in an evaluation, is obviously
crucial to the outcomes.

In Section 2, several actual


examples of evaluation projects are
presented. Through the inclusion of
the
authors invite the reader to evaluate
the efficacy of these various
evaluation designs (although it
should be remembered that this can
only be done meaningfully with full
knowledge of the context and terms
of reference of the project).
However, the aim is a worthy one,
and particularly if the book is used
in the context of a discussion or

strategically placed questions,

group, the tasks should lead


the development of critical skills
in the reader so that she can, where
introduced to outcomes of other
consider
their
evaluations,
appropriateness and effectiveness.

study

to

Section 3 deals with Exploring


Evaluation Potential, with the aim
of providing the reader with an
opportunity to develop skills in
designing evaluation procedures.
The tasks give readers a chance to

practise writing questionnaires,


observation sheets, etc, and to try
them out in their own classrooms.
The major failing in this book,
I feel, is that in focusing particularly
on the design of qualitative data
collection techniques for the
purposes of formative evaluation,
the authors fail to address a
fundamental aspect of evaluation.
While they suggest many ways in
which information can be gathered,
they do not provide guidance as to
how the evaluator should go about
interpreting the data once it has
been collected. As stated earlier, the
purpose of an evaluation is to enable
value judgements to be made, but
even with the best designed data
collection instruments, the novice
might well find herself in a situation
where she is unable to interpret the
data in order to draw
any
conclusions or make any firm value

judgements.

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A related point is that the


authors do not warn that teacherdesigned evaluations run the risk
of being sloppily designed simply
because they are based on
observation and other informal data
collection techniques and do not

but in

format which is difficult to

interpret.
In

conclusion, this book is

an

which focuses

on

generally publicly accountable


require quantitative data and
rigorous analysis). Given that

introductory
the methodology of evaluation
models. It is an extremely
accessible book which, by leading
them through the principles and
practice of evaluation to a stage
where they can begin to design
models appropriate to their own

neither results nor evaluation


designs can be generalised from one
context to another, the teacher has
ultimately to devise her own
evaluation procedure for her
particular context. The design of
data collection tools is a complex
skill.- it is not enough to produce
data, the data must then be
interpretable in some meaningful
way. The novice runs the risk of
tools
adapting
existing
inappropriately or designing tools
which, for example, provide
copious quantities of information

context, will be of interest to


teachers who are committed to
evaluating and improving their own
practice. By providing a range of
various models, it gives insights
into how evaluations can be
conducted in a principled and
systematic way. By drawing on the
examples presented in Evaluation
in order to design and implement
their own small-scale projects,
teachers will be able to develop the
evaluation skills needed to become
critical, and hence better,
practitioners of their profession.

require

public

accountability

(whereas summative evaluations


are

and

text

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