Evaluation of Educational Programs

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Program evaluation may be defined as the systematic collection of information about the characteristics, activities, and outcomes of programs for the purpose of making judgements about program effectiveness, improving program effectiveness, and/or informing decisions about future program development (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1999). As this definition suggests, the evaluation of a program can emphasize its characteristics, its activities, its outcomes, or some combination of these. “Characteristics” include the context within which the program is operating, the resources used to support the program, and the staff used to implement the program. “Activities” include those actions that must be taken in order to implement the program properly. Instructional strategies, teaching practices, teacher behaviours, student behaviours, teacher-student interactions, and student work are but a few of the activities associated with school programs. “Outcomes” refer to the impact of the program on those for whom the program is intended. These outcomes may be specified in advance (such as in the form of program goals) or may be unintended outcomes of program design and/or implementation (which are often referred to as “consequences”). In addition to differences in characteristics, activities, and outcomes, program evaluation can differ in terms of its purpose(s). Program evaluation can focus on program effectiveness. Typically, this is referred to as “summative evaluation” (Scriven, 1967). Program evaluation can also focus on program improvement. Traditionally, this has been labelled “formative evaluation.” In addition, program evaluation can focus on informing decisions about future program development. Typically, this involves both formative and summative evaluation and places a greater premium on the decision-maker than on the evaluator. For this purpose, clear and meaningful communication between evaluator and decision-maker is absolutely essential. Finally,...
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