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Program Evaluation Models and Practices:

A Review of Research Literature

David Townsend
Pamela Adams
Faculty of Education
The University of Lethbridge

March, 2003
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RESEARCH AND LITERATURE REVIEW ON PROGRAM EVALUATION

1. Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches to Research and Program Evaluation

Man is an animal in webs of significance he himself has spun…. the analysis of


that is not an experimental science in search of law, but an interpretive one in
search of meaning.
Clifford Geertz, 1973.

Essays written by the left hand need to be read with as much rigor as those
written with the right hand.
Elliot Eisner, 1990.

The schism that exists between social research methods favoring either a
qualitative or quantitative approach to program review is not new. On the one hand,
qualitative researchers criticize strictly quantitative program evaluation models for
drawing conclusions that are often pragmatically irrelevant (Reichardt and Rallis, 1994;
Woods, 1986); for employing methods that are overly mechanistic, impersonal, and
socially insensitive (Maturana, 1991; Scott and Usher, 2002); for compartmentalizing,
and thereby minimizing, the complex multidimensional nature of human experience
(Moerman, 1974; Silverman, 2000; Yutang, 1937); for encouraging research as an
isolationist and detached activity impervious to collaboration (Scott and Usher, 2002); for
tipping the scales of understanding excessively toward objective disenchantment (Bonβ
and Hartmann, 1985; Weber, 1919); and for forwarding claims of objectivity that are
simply not fulfilled to the degree espoused in many quantitative studies (Flick, 2002).
On the other hand, qualitative program reviews are seen as quintessentially
unreliable forms of inquiry (Gardner, 1993). Some educational researchers suggest that
even the most rigorous qualitative study provides no assurance of linking research with
relevant practice (James, 1925; Kerlinger, 1977); that the degree to which qualitative
study variables are uncontrolled offers certainty that causation can rarely be proven (Ary,
Jacobs,and Razavieh, 1979); that methodologies such as narration and autobiography can
yield data that is unverifiable, deceptive, and narcissistic; that qualitative researchers
often inadvertantly influence the generation of data and conclusions (Durkheim, 1982);
and that the Hawthorne effect, rather than authentic social reality, is responsible for many
events observed in these types of studies. Nonetheless, recognition of unique contexts,
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intellectual diversity, and reasonable yet poetic thinking can contribute a strong
foundation, as well as gifts of insight, to even the most complex educational experiences.
In support of more holistic methods of inquiring into the nuances of educational practices
and programs, Lin Yutang (1937) suggests,
As a result of this past dehumanized logic, we have dehumanized truth. We have a
philosophy that has become a stranger to the experience of life itself, that has
almost half disclaimed any intention to teach us the meaning of life and the
wisdom of living; a philosophy that has lost that intimate feeling of life or
awareness of living which is the very essence of philosophy. (p. 422)

Scott and Usher (2002) contend that, “Knowledge….is always a matter of


knowing differently rather than cumulative increase, identity, or confirmation” (p. 19).
Similarly, Eisner (1986) suggests that knowledge is never a complete and undisputed
form of truth, and that understanding is often rich with idiosyncratic perspective. He
states that, “All methods and forms of representation are partial” (p. 15). That the
methods used in this study is both multi-theoretical and multi-methodological is at once a
strength that parallels constructivist beliefs about the nature of reality, and a weakness
that renders it susceptible to positivist criticisms of reliability and validity.
Denzin and Lincoln (2000) point out the difficulty in defining valid educational
research and program review. Should it be, as Eisner (1997) proposes, “….a new way of
thinking about the nature of knowledge and how it can be created” (p. 4)? Is it, as Reason
and Marshall (1987) suggest, “….a cooperative endeavor which enables a community of
people to make sense of and act effectively in their world” (p. 112)? Is it, as Glesne
(1999) argues, “….like learning to paint. Study the masters, learn techniques and
methods, practice them faithfully, and then adapt them to your own persuasions when
you know enough to describe the work of those who have influenced you and the ways in
which you are contributing new perspectives” (p. 3)? Or it is, as Glaser and Strauss
(1967) contend, a venture involving the “….ability to make imaginative use of personal
experiences…” (Becker, 1970, p. 22).
Patton (2002) defines meaningful program research as, “….detailed descriptions
of situations, events, people, interaction, and observed behaviors; direct quotations from
people about their experiences, attitudes, beliefs, and thoughts; and excerpts or entire
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passages from documents, correspondence, records, and case history” (p. 22). Wolcott
(1992) alliteratively describes effective educational research as the activities of
experiencing and attending to sensory data; enquiring with curiosity beyond mere
observation and; examining and reviewing materials prepared by self and others. His
diagram of the complex activities of qualitative educational research is included below.

Figure 1.
Wolcott’s Qualitative Strategies

In North America, the past three decades have witnessed a dramatic increase in
the social and political inspection and critique of schools. Public examination of student
achievement has occurred on an unprecedented scale. While a plethora of fiscal, social,
ideological, and economic influences have provided impetus for this scrutiny, one well-
documented response to demands for educational accountability has been an escalating
interest in programs that link incentives or fiscal rewards to student achievement. Perhaps
it is the generalized belief that education cannot save itself that has led to such increases
in standardized and high-stakes testing, prescriptive curricula, and externally mandated
professional development of teachers. Yet, there is persuasive evidence to suggest that if
students, teachers, administrators, school boards, parents, and, indeed, the community as
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a whole, are to be held accountable for children’s learning, programs to assess and
support educational reforms should be based on models that are internally empowering,
rather than externally interrogative. This notion of empowerment evaluation is a shift
away from the singular criterion of quantitative merit and worth toward a fundamentally
democratic process that seeks to foster self-determination, self-improvement, and
capacity building in a spirit of responsiveness (Fetterman, 2001).
Successful models of school reform, such as the Manitoba School Improvement
Program (MSIP) or the Improving the Quality of Education for All Project (IQEA) in the
United Kingdom, have carefully constructed cushioning networks of technical assistance
and site-to-site support to buoy schools and educators seeking to implement change.
These initiatives are also based, in part, on research indicating that the exclusionary use
of standardized testing and resultant student achievement as the primary barometer of
school effectiveness is increasingly insufficient in providing the most useful information
to stakeholders in the educational community, including policy makers. Such initiatives
are seen to promote expansive improvements in all types of learning as the goal of
schools, signalling a shift away from the conventional use of accountability systems
“toward a more cooperative and transitional path of program review procedures”
(Schmoker, 2000, p. 62).

2. Definitions and Models of Program Evaluation


Program evaluation is a collection of methods, skills, and sensitivities necessary
to determine whether a human service is needed and likely to be used, whether the
service is sufficiently intensive to meet the unmet needs identified, whether the
service is offered as planned, and whether the service actually does help people in
need at a reasonable cost without unacceptable side effects. (Posavac and Carey,
1997, p. 2)

To the extent that educational initiatives are most commonly evaluated in order to
determine past effectiveness and to create future goals, “evaluation is an essential,
integral component of all innovative programs” (Somekh, 2001, p. 76). It is “the process
of making judgment about the merit, value, or worth of educational programs, projects,
materials, and techniques” (Borg and Gall, 1983, p. 733). A more extensive definition of
program evaluation might outline, “the sets of activities involved in collecting
information about the operations and effects of policies, programs, curricula, courses,
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educational software, and other instructional materials” (Gredler, 1996, p. 13). That
program evaluation not be confused with other forms of inquiry or data collections which
are conducted for different purposes is of critical importance (Gredler, 1996). For
example, it is the use of evaluation as a strategy for program improvement rather than for
accountability, justification, and program continuity that has traditionally differentiated
formative from summative evaluation. The latter consists of activities “to obtain some
kind of terminal or over-all evaluation in order that some type of general conclusion can
be made” (Tyler, Gagne and Scriven, 1967, p. 86). While summative evaluation can serve
to justify additional funding, it may also generate modification or elimination of a
program or its individual components. Formative evaluation, however, takes place at a
more intermediate stage, “permit[ting] intelligent changes to be made….” (Tyler, et al.,
1967, p. 86) as the initiative evolves. The benefits of such action can usually facilitate the
saving of both finite time and money. Alternately, programs conducted without an
evaluation component run the very real risk of wasted funding when “opportunities [are]
lost for policy makers to learn either from their successes or from what went wrong”
(Somekh, 2001, p. 76).
Hopkins (1989) suggests that evaluation in schools should be used for three types of
decisions: course improvement (instructional methods and materials); decisions about
individuals (pupil and teacher needs); and administrative regulation (rating schools,
systems, and teachers). Evaluation of schools, evaluation for school improvement, and
evaluation as school improvement characterize these three approaches. Regardless of the
nature of the evaluation, Sanders (2000) identifies the following as key tasks:
• deciding whether to evaluate.
• defining the evaluation problem.
• designing the evaluation.
• budgeting the evaluation.
• contracting for the evaluation.
• managing the evaluation.
• staffing the evaluation.
• developing evaluation policies.
• designing a program for evaluators, collecting the information.
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• analyzing the information.


• reporting the evaluation.
Of course, the importance and applicability of each task will vary, depending on the
nature of the evaluation.
According to Sanders (2000), four categories comprise the essential
characteristics of sound and fair program evaluation. Utility standards ensure that an
evaluation serves the information needs of the intended users. More specifically, they
include: stakeholder identification, evaluator credibility, information scope and selection,
values identification, report clarity, report timeliness and dissemination, and evaluation
impact. Feasibility standards require that an evaluation be realistic, prudent, frugal, and
diplomatic. Practical procedures, political viability, and cost effectiveness comprise these
standards. Standards of propriety guarantee that any evaluation will be conducted
ethically, legally, and with due regard for the welfare of those both involved and affected
by the evaluation. These standards embrace service orientation, formal agreements, rights
of human subjects, human interactions, fair and complete assessment, disclosure of
findings, conflict of interest, and fiscal responsibility. Finally, accuracy standards
guarantee that the evaluation reveals and conveys information that is technically adequate
relative to determining the worth or merit of the program under review. They consist of
program documentation, context analysis, described procedures and purposes, defensible
sources of information, valid information, reliable information, systematic information,
analysis of quantitative information, analysis of qualitative information, justified
information, impartial reporting, and meta-evaluation.
An obvious, but often overlooked, characteristic of the evaluation process is the
degree to which results are relevant, functional, and useful. Clearly, an evaluation should
not be undertaken if no use will be made of the results. “Time and resources are too
valuable to waste in this manner” (Sanders, 2000, p. 52). However, provided the results
are produced in a format that is timely, tailored to suit the audience, and reported using
appropriate media, educators can use them to plan program improvements. This can lead
to a cyclical process in which, “changes in the program may be necessary, benchmarks
and results-based goals may need to be redefined, or action strategies may need to be
continued, replaced, or redesigned” (Hertling, 2000, p. 3).
As with other forms of research and development, the people conducting program
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evaluations should be expected to acknowledge the personal and professional biases they
bring to evaluative processes. This awareness and recognition will frame theoretical
considerations as well as establish, “the advantages and limitations of what is chosen, as
opposed to what is disregarded…” (Rebien, 1997, p. 2). Evaluators must also be
explicitly aware of relative strengths and weaknesses of different evaluative approaches
(Shadish, Cook and Leviton, 1991), and take care to not “create their own establishment
and glamorize it as an elite ” (Stenhouse, quoted in Hopkins, 1989, p. iii).
During the last five decades, several major models of program evaluation have
emerged. To compare these models is one way to understand the breadth and depth of the
subject. A study of alternate approaches might also be crucial to the scientific
advancement of evaluation. Moreover, such an appraisal can help evaluators assess and
consider frameworks which they may employ as they plan and conduct studies. It is
important to identify strengths and weaknesses of a variety of models in order to refine
specific relevant approaches, rather than “to enshrine any one of them….” (Stufflebeam
and Webster, as cited in Maldaus, Scriven, and Stufflebeam, 1984, p. 24). The underlying
theoretical assumptions of each will provide a basis for comparison, as “…. models differ
from one another as the base assumptions vary” (House, as cited in Maldaus, Scriven and
Stufflebeam, 1984, p. 24). In Table 1, Maldaus, et al. (1984) compare assorted models,
proponents, major audiences, understandings, methodologies, outcomes, and examples of
typical questions associated with formative program evaluation.

Table 1.
A Taxonomy of Major Evaluation Models.

Model Proponents Major Assumes Methodology Outcome Typical Questions


Audiences Consensus
On
Systems Rivlin Economists, Goals; known PPBS: linear Efficiency Are the expected effects
Analysis managers cause & programming; achieved? Can the
effect; planned effects be achieved more
quantified variation; cost economically?
variables. benefit
analysis.
Behavioral Tyler, Managers, Prespecified Behavioral Productivity; Are the students
objectives Popham psychologists objectives; Objectives; accountability achieving the objectives?
quantified achievement Is the teacher producing?
outcome tests
variables
Decision Stufflebeam, Decision General Surveys, Effectiveness; Is the program effective?
Making Alkin makers, esp. goals; criteria questionnaires, quality What parts are effective?
administrators interviews; control.
natural
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variation
Goal Free Scriven Consumers Consequences Bias control; Consumer What are all the effects?
criteria;; logical choice; social
analysis; utility
modus
operandi
Art Criticism Eisner, Connoisseurs, Critics, Critical review Improved Would a critic approve
Kelly Consumers standards, Standards this program?

Accreditation North Teachers, Criteria, Review by Professional How would


Central public panel, panel; self- acceptance professionals rate this
Association procedures study program?
Adversary Owens, Jury Procedures Quasi-legal Resolution What are the arguments
Levine, and judges procedures for and against the
Wolf program?
Transaction Stake, Client, Negotiations; Case Studies, Understanding; What does the program
Smith, Practitioners activities interviews, diversity look like to different
MacDonald, observations people?
Parlett-
Hamilton
All spelling and punctuation copied as original document displayed

All are dependent to some degree upon the philosophy of liberalism, and “partake
of the ideas of a competitive, individualistic, market society…. the most fundamental
idea is freedom of choice, for without choice, of what use is evaluation?” (House, as cited
in Maldaus, Scriven and Stufflebeam, 1984, p. 49).
There was a flurry of evaluation protocol development in the late 1960s when a
number of academics produced several alternative theoretical approaches. This
renaissance in the field was fuelled, in part, by “the mounting responsibilities and
resources that society assigned to educators” (Stufflebeam and Webster, as cited in
Maldaus, Scriven, and Stufflebeam, 1984, p. 23). Table 2 presents Scriven’s (1993)
review of program evaluation approaches of this period.
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Table 2.
Scriven’s Past Conceptions of Evaluation.

Rich Constructivist,
Strong Decision Weak Relativistic Description or Fourth
Support View Decision View Approach / Generation
Support Social Approach
View Process
School
Tyler, CIPP with Alkin Provus Stake, Guba & Lincoln,
DEVELOPER Stufflebeam,Guba Rossi & Cronbach many supporters
Freeman, in UK and US
WHEN 1971 (CIPP) 1972 1971, 1989 1980 1981
Purports that all
Info is Uses only evaluation
gathered client’s Ethnographic results from
in service values as enterprise construction by
Process of rational for a framework even without individuals and
program decision without client’s negations by
PURPOSE management maker judgment values groups
STRONG/DIRECT Rejects
CONCLUSIONS summative No, rejects all
REACHED? Yes No No evaluation claims

An extensive analysis of the work of several other authors engaged in evaluation from
1960 through the 1980s is presented in Appendix A.

3. Empowerment Models: An Alternate Perspective


More recently, another approach to evaluation has slowly gained favor with
educators. It has been developed, in part, in response to a concern that increased
“politicization of evaluation…tight time lines, restricted budgets, and an over-emphasis
on cost-effectiveness …. often distort currently accepted evaluation procedures….”
(Hopkins, 1989, p. 9). For Hopkins, evaluation should be viewed as an illuminative,
rather than recommendatory exercise, as a guide for improvement, rather than evidence
for judgement. He promotes the concept of empowerment evaluation as an iterative
process of value assessments and resultant plans for program improvement in which
participants are helped to conduct their own evaluation. Hopkins describes empowerment
evaluation as a collaborative activity that employs both qualitative and quantitative
methodologies. Teams of educators, with the assistance of trained evaluators, learn to
assess, progress towards goals, and re-shape the goals according to theoretical
foundations, resulting in a type of self-determination that Earl (2000) refers to as
“agency” (p. 60). Hopkins also contends that program effectiveness is not achieved
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merely by conforming to externally imposed models of evaluation, but through


participants acquiring skills and strategies, understanding, and reflection in a process of
collaborative refinement and judgment. Fetterman (2001) suggests that empowerment
evaluation can foster self-determination, generate illumination, and actualize liberation. It
involves a fundamentally democratic process that promotes, among other things, self-
improvement and capacity-building. Improvements in the quality of education occur,
“not through legislative fiat, but through the exercise and development of professional
judgement of those within the system” (Hopkins, 1989, p. 194). A central premise of this
method is that efficacy of schools is not contingent on external forces, but on their
properties as social systems.
Empowerment evaluation methods question the overly-judgmental nature of
traditional evaluation, and seek to moderate the importance of external critique. They are
based on the development of pedagogy as opposed to methodology, the exploration of
new kinds of educational research, and the integration of evaluation and development
(Hopkins, 1989). Fetterman (2001) contends that, “merit and worth are not static values”
(p. 3), and that any event must be understood in context from multiple worldviews.
“Populations shift, goals shift, knowledge about program practices and their values
change, and external forces are highly unstable….” (ibid). Empowerment evaluation is a
method that accommodates these shifts by internalizing self-evaluation processes and
practice. Strongly influenced by action research, it is a dynamic and responsive approach
that emphasizes inclusion rather than exclusion.
Additionally, empowerment evaluation acknowledges the constructivist belief that
people can discover knowledge and solutions based on their own experiences. Thus, the
assessment of value and worth of a program becomes a continuous, rather than a
terminal, process. While findings remain grounded in collected data, program
stakeholders are able to establish their own goals, processes, outcomes, and impacts.
External evaluators are able to provide training, coaching, and assistance in an
atmosphere of honesty, trust, support, criticism, and self-criticism. Neither a servant, nor
a judge, nor a slave, the external evaluator, seen as a “critical friend” (Earl, 2000, p. 59),
can help keep the effort credible, useful, directed, and rigorous, contributing positively to
the formation of “ a dynamic community of transformative learning” (Fetterman, 2001, p.
6).
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Empowerment evaluation proceeds through three steps. The first establishes the
mission or vision of the program. That is, the participants state the results they would like
to see, based on the projected outcome of the implemented program, and then map
through the process in reverse design. The second step involves taking stock of,
identifying, and prioritizing the most significant program activities. Staff members rate
present program effectiveness using a nominal instrument and the ensuing discussion
determines the current program status. Charting a course for the future is the third step.
The group outlines goals and strategies to achieve their dream with an explicit emphasis
on improvement. External evaluators assist participants in identifying types of evidence
required to document progress toward the goal. In the presence of a strong, shared
commitment on the part of the participants, deception is inappropriate and unnecessary;
the group itself is a useful, powerful check (Fetterman, 2001). For empowerment
evaluation to be effective and credible, participants must enjoy the latitude to take risks
and simultaneously assume responsibility. A safe atmosphere, in which it is possible to
share success and failure, is as essential as a sense of caring and community.
Other influential authors (Posavac and Carey, 1997) have adopted a model of
program evaluation that honors many of the principles of empowerment evaluation. Their
improvement-focused model, they contend, best meets the criteria necessary for effective
evaluation. That is, the needs of stakeholders are served; valid information is provided;
and alternate viewpoints are acknowledged. As Posavac and Carey note, “to carry this off
without threatening the staff is the greatest challenge of program evaluation” (p. 27).

4. Models of School Improvement with Empowerment Assumptions


Within the span of 11 months during the summers of 1994 and 1995, the
Manitoba provincial government presented its agenda for school reform in three key
policy documents. Six interrelated priority areas for government action appeared to be
aimed at renewing and revitalizing the system, and sought a more rigorous and relevant
curriculum underpinned by the premise of raising educational standards and achievement
of all students. Essential learnings, educational standards and evaluation, school
effectiveness, parental and community involvement, distance education and technology,
and teacher education were all declared priorities for government action. These
documents provided impetus for the rapid introduction of policies and strategies aimed at
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improving the quality of Manitoba public schools, such as the adoption of provincially
mandated curricula accompanied by subject and grade level outcomes, and province-wide
testing at grades three, six, nine, and twelve (Harris and Young, 1999). The provincial
government denied that such initiatives constituted an explicit attack on the failures of
teachers and schools. Yet, such a comprehensive attempt at system change, seemingly
driven by a political agenda and accompanied by a reduction of funding to education,
provoked considerable resistance from the Manitoba Teachers’ Society, as well as
extensive public controversy and debate (Harris and Young, 1999).
The Manitoba School Improvement Project actually came into being before this
contentious governmental reform. Originating in an independent charitable foundation, it
drew on the professional praxis of teachers---rather than academics---to focus exclusively
on school reform at the secondary school level. In existence since 1991, the program was
born as a result of the vision and support of the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation, a
Canadian philanthropic group interested in enhancing educational opportunities for
students at risk. The educational community in Manitoba welcomed and supported this
involvement. Accordingly, the Foundation elected to support secondary projects that
were designed by individual schools in urban centres, with later initiatives expanded to
rural and northern settings. Thus began one of Canada’s major initiatives to empower
teachers as catalysts for change.
MSIP has provided multi-year funding to more than 30 schools in 13 school
divisions in Manitoba. In 1998, an external evaluation of the initiative was commissioned
to examine achievement of project goals, increased student learning, increased student
engagement, and successful school improvement. The report concluded that, while not
every school showed high levels of improvement, a majority of schools in the project had
been successful in these four areas. In fact, improved academic performance, increased
student enrolment, reduced disciplinary problems, improved attendance, increased family
and community involvement, and increased student graduation were also noted as
unanticipated positive results (Harris and Young, 1999). Michael Fullan, a leader of the
external evaluation team, remarked that, “at the secondary level, I know of no other
strategy which has taken 20 or more schools and shown the level of success in this short
amount of time….[it shows] secondary schools can move more quickly, even more
quickly than we thought possible, and in a cost efficient way ” (Fullan, quoted in Harris
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and Young, 1999, p. 110).


Another well-established school improvement project, similar to the MSIP and
well-known within the international research community, is the Improving the Quality of
Education for All Project (IQEA) in the United Kingdom. Like the MSIP, it embodies an
alternate model that is not politically driven, and that empowers schools to operate under
a developmental, rather than an accountability, framework (Harris and Young, 1999).
Both focus on teacher professional development and both support efforts to improve
schools by developing a critical, but supportive, culture.
In the last decade, schools and teachers in both Canada and the United Kingdom
have come under increased public scrutiny and political pressure. Society’s expectations
of schools and reforms inevitably exceed the knowledge and capacity of educators to
meet these demands, particularly when expectations are ambiguous or contradictory and
when additional resources to fund system-wide reforms are sparse (Harris and Young,
1999). As a result of the 1990s movement toward higher standards of student
achievement and teacher performance, the British government legislated school-based
management, a national curriculum, national targets, national tests, and a standard model
of inspection. During this period of continuing financial stringency, top-down
restructuring was the change mechanism for increasing teacher accountability. In this
context, the IQEA project has been a unique school improvement initiative in Britain,
launched during a time of unprecedented regulation, standardization, and politicized
school reform. Since its inception, it has operated in over fifty schools across England
and Wales; schools in Iceland, South Africa, and Puerto Rico have since been
incorporated into the program. Faculty from the universities of Cambridge and
Nottingham lead the project, and represent academic support and vision. This model is
based on the inextricable relationship between professional growth and school
development, and the assumption that schools are more likely to provide enhanced
outcomes for all students when they adopt ways of working that are consistent with both
the aspirations of the school community and the demands of external change.
Unlike the MSIP, however, the IQEA is self-funding: it is financially dependent
on schools joining the project. Participating institutions pay an initial amount for a four
term or sixteen month project, with the possibility of extension at a reduced cost. For
many schools, these payments represent a large part, if not all, of their professional
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development fund. Entry is limited; consequently, schools are required to agree to a prior
set of conditions before joining the project. They must gain the support of 80% of the
staff, they must commit their professional development time to IQEA over the four terms,
and a cadre must be formed which will be responsible for leading the school change.
Finally, schools commit themselves to undergo a process of internal and external
evaluation. For their part, the universities design a program of staff development
activities, and provide a liaison advisor for each school whose responsibilities include
networking, training, support, consultancy, feedback, advice, and pressure (Harris and
Young, 1999).
Teachers in any school considering joining the project are expected to share the
philosophy and values of the IQEA Project. The following tenets are worthy of note:
• Schools do not improve unless teachers, individually and collectively,
develop. While teachers can often develop their practice on an individual
basis, if the whole school is to develop there need to be many staff
development opportunities for teachers to learn together.
• Successful schools seem to employ decision-making mechanisms that
encourage feelings of involvement from a number of stake-holder groups,
especially students.
• Schools that are successful at reform and improvement establish a clear
vision for themselves and regard leadership as a responsibility of many
staff, rather than a single set of responsibilities vested in a single
individual.
• Co-ordination of activities is an important way to keep people involved,
particularly when changes of policy are being introduced. Communication
within the school is a vital aspect of co-ordination, as is informal
interaction between teachers.
• Schools which recognize the importance of professional inquiry and
reflection find it easier to gain clarity and establish shared meaning around
identified development priorities, and are better able to monitor the extent
to which policies actually deliver intended outcomes for pupils.
• Through the process of planning for development, a successful school is
able to link its educational aspirations with identifiable priorities, to
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sequence those priorities over time, and to maintain a focus on classroom


practice. (Harris and Young, 1999, pp. 4-5)

Several commonalities emerge when comparing the MSIP and the IQEA in terms
of stimulating potent and lasting change. Both employ an external monitoring agency.
Both focus on specific teaching and learning activities. They are committed to
professional interchange, collaboration, and networking. They espouse devolved
leadership and temporary systems. Finally, both support formative and summative
evaluation, and demonstrate that “some of the best evaluation occurs in response to
questions that teachers and other school personnel ask about their professional practice”
(Sanders, 2000, p. 3). That is, they establish inquiry and reflection as intrinsic to school
growth and improvement.
Among several other authors, Rapple (1994) and Barth (1990, 2001) contend that
these types of strategies are necessary to foster educational accountability grounded not
in passive and external models which encourage compliance and subservience, but in
active internally reflective models which build responsibility and capacity.
....there is sheer futility in attempting to regulate education by
economic laws. Accountability in education should not be facilely
linked to mechanical examination results, for there is a very distinct
danger that the pedagogical methods employed to attain those results will
themselves be mechanical and the education of children will be so
much the worse. (Rapple, 1994, p. 11)

5. The Alberta Initiative for School Improvement

In 1999, the Alberta Ministry of Learning in consultation with representatives of


school boards, teachers, superintendents, parents, and school business officials, helped
create the Alberta Initiative for School Improvement (AISI). As AISI projects were
designed, there was an expectation that schools would propose a balance of quantitative
and qualitative measures of success. The AISI Administrative Handbook (1999) indicated
that, “measures should not drive the project design” (p. 8). The use of Provincial
Achievement Test results was indicated, where appropriate, while reference was made to
a very broad range of other measures, too. In a province with Canada’s most extensive
achievement testing program, the even-handedness of the Ministry on this issue may have
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been one of the critical factors in encouraging the "collaboration, system leadership, and
consensus building" (Booi, Hyman, Thomas, and Couture, 2000, p. 35) that characterized
successful proposal development in the early stages of the Initiative.
In less than three years, AISI has given rise to hundreds of system and school
projects. Many of them have chosen to re-focus educational vision and structure through
an empowerment-based action research model that facilitates and encourages teachers to
make internal assessments of strengths, and establish action plans based on collaborative
problem solving. Alberta Deputy Minister of Learning, Maria David-Evans (2000),
suggests that this process will enhance the “collective capacity” within schools as a result
of “greater sharing [and] pursuit of a common goal….” (p. 11). Cimbricz (2002) concurs,
noting that projects of the kind developed within AISI can increase the likelihood that
administrators and staffs will engage in positive goal setting that, in turn, can encourage a
common focus and purpose for all members of the school community.
In addition, Elliott’s (1991) model of action research as a method to undertake
educational change is one of many that has been seen to fit the purpose of most AISI
projects, to “….study an educational situation with a view to improving the quality of
action within it” (p. 69). Moreover, the balanced perspective inherent in AISI processes
renders documents such as Long Term Strategic Plans, Individualized Student Education
Plans, and Individual Teacher Growth Plans potentially more valuable as they are seen to
dovetail with the daily decisions made by staff about the learning activities of students.
For Rogers (2000), this perspective increases the likelihood of collaboration and
cooperation among teachers and principals, and across schools.
In systems all over the world, many schools are exploring newly emerging forms
of assessment designed to demonstrate and celebrate students’ knowledge and skills, and
the effectiveness of schools and teachers. Several factors contribute to this reform in
student and program evaluation: the changing nature of educational goals, the
relationship between assessment and pedagogy, and the clear limitations of current
methods of judging performance (Marzano, Pickering, and McTighe, 1993). Demands for
external accountability, advances in the technology and science of assessment, the advent
of large scale testing in schools, and calls for educational reform are other significant
factors influencing the changing face of student learning and program assessment
(Brandt, 2000). In addition, academic and non-academic competencies necessary for the
17

modern workplace, such as creative thinking, decision making, problem solving,


metacognition, life-long pursuit of knowledge, collaboration, and self-management are
making necessary the re-creation of notions of efficiency and effectiveness in reform
initiatives.
Up to the present, evaluations of many corporate and educational organizations
have been based on ideologies derived from seventeenth century Newtonian physics
(Costa and Kallick, 1995). That worldview venerated mechanics, leverage, hierarchies,
and rigid organization. Today there exists more of a collective realization that ours is a
world, not only of things but of relationships, in which the greatest natural resource is the
human mind in synergy with the human spirit. Costa and Kallick (1995) contend, “The
new paradigm of industrial management emphasizes a trusting environment in which
growth and empowerment of the individual are the keys to unlocking corporate success”
(p. 66). This is the same paradigm that will allow and encourage educators to re-envisage
and re-frame the mission, vision, outcomes, and assessment of schools in order to align
them with “modern, relevant policies, practices, and philosophies consistent with the
concept of multiple intelligences in a quantum world” (p. 67). In all this change, program
evaluation is certainly a legitimate activity. However, it is a means to improving
education and learning; it is not an end in itself. Reform and improvement initiatives as a
vehicle for developing personal efficacy, flexibility, adaptability, craftsmanship, high
personal standards, consciousness, metacognition, interdependence, and sense of
community will be the bulwark of the shifting paradigm (Costa & Kallick, 1995). Student
evaluation will also be as important an influence as external assessment. Costa and
Kallick (1995) outline this transition in educational change and program assessment in
Table 3.

Table 3.
Existing and Desired States of Change and Assessment.

From the Existing State… …To a Desired State


Bureaucratic institution that fosters A system that recognizes the necessity for those who are being assessed to be
dependence based on external part of the evaluation process, to become self-evaluating. A system that
evaluation offered as summative encourages continuous external feedback to be used for ongoing, self-correcting
rather than formative. assessment.

The assumption that change takes Operating within people’s maps of reality (personal knowledge) and creating
place by mandating new cognitive conditions for people to examine and alter their own internal maps.
18

maps and training people to use them.


Assessments that assist learners in understanding, expanding, and considering
Assessments that limit the frame of alternative frames.
reference by which people will judge
the system.
Assessments that impose external Assessments that allow different demonstrations of strengths, abilities, and
models of reality. knowledge.

Assessments that communicate that Assessments that allow the capacity to make meaning of the massive flow of
knowledge is outside the learner. information and to shape raw data into patterns that make sense to the
individual.
Assessments that signal that personal
knowledge and experience are of little Assessments of knowledge being produced from within the learner.
worth.

Conceptions of curriculum,
instruction, and assessment are
separate entities in a system. Communicating that the learner’s personal knowledge and experience is of great
worth.
Each aspect of the system that is
Cont.
assessed is considered to be separate
and discrete.
Assessment is an integral component for all learning at all levels and for all
Individual and organizational critique individuals who compose the system.
perceived as negative and a barrier to
change. All parts of the system are interconnected and synergistic.

Critique is perceived as a necessary component of quality for individual and


organizational decision-making.

In the educational system of today, accountability is not an option. When


systematic testing outside the classroom emerged, it changed forever the nature of
educational assessment (Brandt, 2000). Assessment was no longer a private tool for the
classroom. It became an instrument of public policy. The politicization of achievement
tests made them, potentially, a means to bring about change. Well-intentioned policy
makers, members of legislatures, and politicians who advocate external accountability
measures as the engine of rapid and cost effective reform believe that positive things will
happen to schools and children as a result.
Authentic assessments showcase demonstrations of strengths, abilities, and
knowledge. Accountability in the future ought to focus on what students actually know
and can do, rather than on how much they know compared to others. Otherwise,
evaluation as school improvement is a tautological phrase (Hopkins, 1989). Different
forms of assessment must be used. Performance assessment needs to play a more
prominent role in large scale assessment. The degree to which an assessment reflects the
instruction should become a major indicator of quality in teaching and learning. In short,
19

there is a new role on the horizon for assessment, one which overrides other limited goals
such as accountability and classification, as it helps to provide more and better education
for the learner (Brandt, 2000). When student achievement is tied to reform, those school
systems that are being assessed need to be a part of a continuous, empowering process.
Public officials must allow for teachers collectively enhancing their professional efficacy,
“the essential foundation stone for school improvement” (Hopkins, 1989, p.194). In
powerful contrast to traditional external approaches, evaluations with an empowerment
component can serve as catalysts to influence, clarify, expand, and improve more
traditional forms of evaluation. Proven initiatives such as the Manitoba School
Improvement Project, the Improving Quality of Education for All Project and, now, the
Alberta Initiative for School Improvement, represent a paradigm shift in which
enlightened, willing educators can dedicate themselves to promoting social change,
democratic participation, and shared decision making. Evaluators and other participants
can help foster interdependence, and professional growth, and all can contribute to the
cultivation of a community of learners (Fetterman, 2001).
Finally, in a summary of their recent text, Posavac and Carey (1997) reaffirm the
importance of interpersonal relations and the attitude of evaluators as they work with
stakeholders. The authors offer the following statements for the guidance and conduct of
program evaluations:
• Humility won’t hurt.
• Impatience may lead to disappointment.
• Recognize the importance of the evaluator’s perspective.
• Work on practical questions.
• Work on feasible issues.
• Avoid data addiction.
• Make communications accessible.
• Seek evaluation [of the work of the evaluators].
• Encourage the development of a learning culture. (p. 262)

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27

Appendix A: An Analysis of Values-Orientation Study Types (True-Evaluation).


From Madaus, Scriven, & Stufflebeam. (1984).

Approaches Values-Orientation
(True Evaluation)
Definition Studies that are designed primarily to assess some object’s worth
Study Types Accreditation/Certification Policy Studies Decision- Consumer- Client- Connoisseur-based
guidelines oriented studies oriented centered studies
studies studies
Advance Accreditation/certification Policy issues Decision Societal values Localized Evaluators’
Organizers guidelines Situations and needs concerns and expertise and
issues sensitivities
Purpose To determine whether To identify To provide a To judge the To foster To critically
institutions, programs and and assess the knowledge and relative merits understanding describe, appraise
personnel should be potential costs value base for of alternative of activities and illuminate an
approved to perform and benefits making and educational and how they object
specified functions of competing defending goods and are valued in a
policies for a decisions services given setting
given and form a
institution or variety of
society perspectives
Source of Accrediting/certifying Legislators, Decision Society at Community Critics and
questions agencies policy boards makers large, and authorities
and special (administrators, consumers, practitioner
interest parents, and the groups in local
groups students, evaluator environments
teachers) their and
constituents, educational
and evaluators experts
Main Are institutions, programs, Which of two How should a Which of What is the What merits and
Questions and personnel meeting or more given enterprise several history and demerits
minimum standards; and competing be planned, alternative status of a distinguish an
how can they be improved? policies will executed, and consumable program and object from others
maximize the recycled in objects is the how is it of the same general
achievement order to foster best buy, given judged by kind?
of valued human growth their costs, the those who are
outcomes at a and needs of the involved with
reasonable development at consumers, it and those
cost? a reasonable and the values who have
cost? of society at expertise in
large? program
areas?
Typical Self-study and visits by Delphi, Surveys, needs Checklists, Case study, Systematic use of
Methods expert panels to assess experimental assessments, needs adversary refined perceptual
performance in relation to and quasi- case studies, assessment, reports, sensitivities and
specified guidelines experimental advocate teams, goal-free sociodrama, various ways of
design, observation, and evaluation, responsive conveying meaning
scenarios, quasi- experimental evaluation and feelings
forecasting, experimental and quasi-
and judicial and experimental
proceedings experimental design, modus
design operandi
analysis, and
cost analysis

Pioneers College Entrance Rice Cronbach, Scriven Stake Eisner


Examination Board (1901) Stufflebeam
Developers Cooperative study of Coleman, Alkin, Ashburn, Glass McDonald, Guba, Sanders
secondary school standards Jenks, Clarke, Brickell, Estes, Rippey, and
(1933) Owens, Wolf Guba, Guba
Merriman, Ott,
Reinhard