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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An assessment of illuminative evaluation as an approach to evaluating residential adult education programs Hasman, Ruth Margaret Reiner


The purpose of this study was to test the suitability of illuminative evaluation as a methodology for determining the value of residential adult education programs. Illuminative evaluation methodology was selected for several reasons. First, the methodology functioned independently of the program. Second, it permitted the flexibility needed to evaluate a developing program. Third, it provided a means of studying spontaneous events. Fourth, it allowed for representation of multiple viewpoints, and lastly, few studies of this methodology had been undertaken (Miles, 1981; Parlett & King, 1971). For those reasons, it seemed important to investigate the suitability of illuminative evaluation. A residential program was determined to be particularly suitable for testing illuminative evaluation because it had some unique advantages that did not exist in other program formats. The chief advantage of the residential format over the more traditional types was that of removing the participant temporarily from his ongoing responsibilities. This made it possible for the investigator to have continuous contact with the participants which is important for a methodology that relies on fieldwork techniques. In this study, illuminative evaluation methodology was applied to the evaluation of a residential program at the Justice Institute of British Columbia. In order to test the suitability of the methodology, three criteria appearing frequently in the literature were judged appropriate to this study—technical adequacy, utility and efficiency. The literature suggested that an evaluation should produce technically sound information that is useful to some audience and is worth more to the audience than it costs (Grotelueschen, 1980). Evidence of the degree to which illuminative evaluation met these criteria was collected during the program. Techniques such as interviews, questionnaires, and observations were used to collect the evidence. The evidence was analyzed using quantitative and qualitative techniques to determine whether the methodology met the standards set by the criteria. The evidence collected showed that this methodology satisfied the criteria requirements of technical adequacy and utility. Although it was weak on the efficiency criterion, the methodology compensated with particular strengths in utility and technical adequacy. For further research, there are a whole host of possible areas that illuminative evaluation opens up. Further work needs to be done to develop specific tasks, questions, and/or procedures which could guide implementation of each stage of the illuminative evaluation methodology. Further studies could be done to contribute to the understanding of the methodology and studies could be done to determine the suitability of the methodology for evaluating other adult education program formats.

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