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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Program evaluation in education : school district practice in British Columbia Wilcox, Trisha G.


This study addressed a problem frequently noted in the evaluation literature, namely the lack of an empirically derived knowledge base about how evaluation is practiced. It examined the practice of program evaluation in school districts in British Columbia. An historical account of the development of the evaluation literature led to a critique of the way the field is ordered, with the result that issues in evaluation, rather than approaches to the evaluative task, were used to structure the framework for the empirical research described. Four general questions that made up this framework were "Evaluation — to what end?" "Evaluation — by what means?" "Evaluation — for whom and by whom?" and "Evaluation — with what conclusion?" The framework was applied to written evaluation reports produced in school districts across the province. The results of the content analysis of these reports provided a description of school district evaluation which has not hitherto been available and which, in turn, served as a means of adding to the existing evaluation knowledge base. A further analysis of the numerous specific findings led to the identification of four salient aspects of program evaluation as practiced in British Columbia school districts. The aspects identified were stakeholder participation in the conduct of evaluations; the role of the evaluator; the purposes of evaluation, and the identification of evaluation criteria. When these aspects are considered together it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that program evaluation practices maintain and reinforce the status quo rather than challenge it. Two kinds of outcomes of the study were seen as important. First, it provides a sound basis for the creation of guidelines for writing evaluation reports in school districts. A number of such guidelines were suggested. Second, the study suggests areas in which further research might usefully be conducted both to amplify the picture discovered in this study and to explore what, if any, role is played by evaluation in the adoption of change in school systems.

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