Flaws of the Hawthorne Effect

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Progress toward specified goals is fundamental to planned accomplishment. Measuring that progress is essential since it provides intermediate feedback for continued or corrective actions and can help ascertain actual accomplishment. Beyond the simple assessment of accomplishment is the evaluation of what that accomplishment truly means. Through proper evaluation, an accomplishment's true worth can be determined. Then, decisions about future actions can be made. Care must be taken, however, to avoid pitfalls that could lead to incorrect conclusions and improper decisions. THE EVALUATION PROCESS: PURPOSE OF EVALUATION

Let's begin with an example. A golfer attempts to hit a ball into a hole in as few strokes as possible. After each stroke, the golfer hopes, the ball will be nearer the hole, until (at last) on the final shot, the ball disappears with a satisfying rattle into the plastic cup liner. The goal has been met. But what does that mean? How well was the goal met? Was it met in exemplary fashion or merely in a satisfactory manner? One measure is the number of strokes required. Assuming another player is competing, scores can be compared in order to evaluate relative performance. Without a norming score, however, goal attainment remains somewhat undefined in terms of level of achievement. Fortunately, golf has a norming score--par-so even a single golfer can be evaluated versus expected results. Golf can be taught and played in several ways. Which is the best method? How can one evaluate these methods? Perhaps comparing the performance of those who adhere to each method will provide a relative measure of which is most productive. Evaluation of these results can help golfers and instructors make informed decisions about which method to employ. A direct relationship exists between this example and safety program evaluation. A safety program is individually measured using a variety of tools. These measures, such as injury frequency rates, can be used in comparison with normalized (or group) measures to evaluate how a program is progressing toward a prescribed level of performance. Furthermore, program activities used to improve performance can be evaluated by comparing various measures of those activities. Hence, the evaluation process can be used to make informed decisions about safety program effectiveness. Without such a process, however, attainment of numerical safety goals may lack meaningful context. Hopkins and Antes describe traditional uses of the results of educational measurement and evaluation. "Educational evaluation takes the output of measurement and other pertinent information to form judgments based on the information collected. These judgments are the basis for decisions about students as individuals, and decisions about the effectiveness of school programs" (Hopkins and Antes 34). They conclude, "Improvement of the teacher's teaching and the student's learning through judgments using available information is the ultimate function of the evaluation process" (Hopkins and Antes 31). Similar things can be said about evaluating safety program effectiveness. That is, information collected about the various activities associated with a safety program should form the basis for decisions made to improve safety performance. EVALUATION TECHNIQUES

Evaluation is based on information collected. Data collection can be achieved via many methods. Observation is one. Observations may be recorded or unrecorded. Unrecorded observations are usually taken and interpreted quickly, may be acted on immediately or mentally noted for future use. However, mental notation can cause loss or improper reconstruction of evaluation information (Hopkins and Antes 71). Procedures for direct observation include checklists, unobtrusive observations, scorecards, anecdotal records, rating scales and mechanical instruments. Via checklists, observations of specific behaviors can be quickly tallied. Unobtrusive observations are...
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