School Evaluation: Basic Concepts
In what is called “stakeholder-based evaluation” the fact that it is often the case that different parties have an (often divergent) interest in program outcomes, is used in shaping the evaluation. The idea is that giving these various parties more proprietary feeling for the evaluation process and its outcomes will increase the chances of the evaluation results being used (cf. Scheerens, 1990, p. 38). In advocacy oriented or “judicial” evaluation varying value positions of relevant parties are also used, but more in the final stage of interpreting, and weighing and judging the information that has been gathered (Wolf, 1990, pp. 79-81). During a public presentation of the data a hearing is organized according to the format of the functioning of a court of law. Witnesses are called to provide evidence before or against the case (i.e. the success or failure of a program) and juries decide. In summary, it seems wise to contain all three elements: systematic inquiry, judgement, and use in decision-making settings in our definition of educational evaluation. Therefore our working definition of educational evaluation is: Judging the value of educational objects on the basis of systematic information gathering in order to support decision making and learning. From the brief overview of views on the evaluation phenomena in the relevant literature it has also become clear that there are some important “contextual conditions” at stake when we deal with educational evaluation. The most important dimension on which these conditions manifest themselves is the variation in positions and interests in the evaluation process and outcomes of relevant parties. This realization gives cause to paying considerable attention to the political and organizational contexts, throughout this book. 15.2.2 School evaluation In our definition of educational evaluation in the preceding paragraph we spoke of “educational objects”. When “schools” are the educational objects to be evaluated – instead of programs in which many schools take part, teachers or individual students – one can speak of “school evaluation”. The fact that schools are the objects which – on the basis of systematic information gathering – are being judged, leaves open the possibility that data on “objects” or “units” within the school are the focus of data collection. However, information on these within-schools units (classrooms, teachers, departments or pupils) will then be aggregated to the school level in order to allow for judgements on the individual school. As we shall see further on, such judgement often requires information on other schools, as a basis for comparison. 15.2.3 Internal and external school evaluation There are four main categories of actors in all types of evaluation, including school evaluation: A the contractors, funders and initiators of the evaluation; B the (professional) staff that carry out the evaluation; C the persons in the object-situation which provide data; D the clients or users or audiences of the evaluation results.