AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

May/15

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Ed Eval TIG Week: Chad Green on Making Sense of Systemic Change Initiatives

I’m Chad Green, an internal evaluator at Loudoun County Public Schools near Washington, D.C.

I’ve worked on many systemic change initiatives over the years, and every so often I get one that defies logic. To make sense of initiatives such as these, I often use a design framework from the book How People Learn by the National Research Council. Click on the link, and you’ll see an illustration of how learning communities such as districts, schools and classrooms can be viewed as an interaction between four interrelated learning environments in need of cultivation:

  • Learner-centered environment: Educators take into account prior knowledge, skills, learning styles, attitudes and unique characteristics of learners in order to motivate them to learn the desired content.
  • Knowledge-centered environment: Educators provide opportunities for hands-on, interactive learning that leads to conceptual understanding rather than the acquisition of disconnected sets of facts and skills. The goal is learner mastery of concepts that makes new learning easier (i.e., supports the transfer of cognitive skills).
  • Assessment-centered environment: Educators monitor progress using formative assessments in order to help learners take control of their own learning (i.e., the metacognitive approach).
  • Community-centered environment: Educators consider the contexts in which learning takes place by developing norms for the community, as well as connections with the outside world, in order to promote a sense of connectedness through shared purpose and values.

Over the years I’ve learned that this flexible framework can be used to review the integrity of large-scale educational initiatives. For example, once I used it as a discussant to make sense of a variety of educational initiatives at the state and national levels. By applying the four perspectives to each initiative, I could quickly identify their strengths and gaps and make immediate recommendations for improvement.

Is this design framework applicable at even larger scales? What about the evaluation community world-wide? I think so.

Last month Bob Williams initiated a thread entitled “Evaluation’s warrant” on the EVALTALK listserv. In it he referenced the following quote from a March 2015 presentation by Irene Guijt:

“It is now up to the evaluation community to show whether evaluation can be part of the effort to save humanity or if evaluation only can make the journey to its doom marginally better” (Mickwitz, 2014).

In response to Bob’s post I applied the design framework once again, envisioning AEA as a node on a global network of Voluntary Organizations for Professional Evaluation (VOPEs).  This evaluation-centered superhub would need to partner with other global superhubs that closely align with our guiding principles and core values as follows:

* Evaluation-centered superhub

* Research- or knowledge-centered superhub

* People- or planet-centered superhub

Encircling and supporting these superhubs is the (global) public good or commons.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Ed Eval TIG Week with our colleagues in the PK12 Educational Evaluation Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our Ed Eval TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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3 comments

  • Sarah Gallina · March 13, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    Mr. Green,

    I have been employed as a classroom teacher for the past five years and have taught in two different countries. I have worked under different principles that imposed their philosophical doctrines onto their staff. While reading your article, the concept of four interrelated learning environments interested me. I have experience in creating specifically designed lessons using differentiated instruction techniques to maximize the learning capabilities of my students, many who speak English as a secondary language.

    I like the simplicity of the model you utilized. To an extant, I feel that the types of learning environments demonstrated are reflective of the educator’s strengths in their pedagogy. The ultimate goal of the administration should be to be create a classroom learning environment encompassing the four main types of learning. Once the classroom is demonstrative of this framework, it is easier to identify the strengths and suggest recommendations for improvement to directors, as you pointed out in the article.

    I do agree that your design framework can be applied in larger scales. You wrote about how this framework can be modified to “review the integrity of large-scale initiatives.” This frame work is beneficial to any school division looking to improve learning in schools or principals maximizing the potential of the student body. I look forward to using this framework in an administrative role in order to facilitate educational success in my school.

    Sincerely,

    Sarah Gallina

    Reply

  • Allison Gorloff · March 13, 2016 at 1:01 pm

    Hello,

    I am currently a student in the Professional Master of Education program at Queen’s University. We have been using this website as a basis for a lot of our learning in a course called Program Inquiry and Evaluation.

    I really enjoyed your article based around design environments for different types of learning. I believe incorporating all of these types of frameworks, depending on the learners and situations is vital. I also believe it is important for teachers to be able to switch up the framework they’re using quickly depending changing environments.

    We have been talking a lot in my course about incorporating many different types of learning frameworks and evaluations to ensure student success. I currently teach Kindergarten and find myself incorporating all of the frameworks you listed above with the focus on learner-cantered and community centred frameworks.

    I really connected with your point about applying the four perspectives listed above to whatever initiative is taking place to see where there is gaps or where improvements can be made. I will continue to keep that in mind as I continue to move forward in the education field.

    Thanks,
    Allison

    Email: 15aeg@queens.ca

    Reply

  • Allison Gorloff · March 13, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    Hi Sheila,

    I am currently a student in the Professional Master of Education program at Queen’s University. We have been using this website as a basis for a lot of our learning in a course called Program Inquiry and Evaluation.

    I really enjoyed your article based around design environments for different types of learning. I believe incorporating all of these types of frameworks, depending on the learners and situations is vital. I also believe it is important for teachers to be able to switch up the framework they’re using quickly depending changing environments.

    We have been talking a lot in my course about incorporating many different types of learning frameworks and evaluations to ensure student success. I currently teach Kindergarten and find myself incorporating all of the frameworks you listed above with the focus on learner-cantered and community centred frameworks.

    I really connected with your point about applying the four perspectives listed above to whatever initiative is taking place to see where there is gaps or where improvements can be made. I will continue to keep that in mind as I continue to move forward in the education field.

    Thanks,
    Allison

    Reply

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