Allow me to introduce myself as Anane Olatunji, president of Align Education, LLC, a consulting R & D firm. Having worked with all types of educational agencies over the last two decades, I’d like to share one important tip that I’ve found particularly helpful when evaluating educational program evaluations. Assess student engagement!
Although there is no agreed upon definition among researchers for the term student engagement, it has to do with the quality of students’ involvement in school based on their behaviors and feelings or attitudes (see Yazzie-Mintz and McCormick, 2012). To underscore the need for assessing engagement, I’d like to borrow a line from a document recently used in my work on a state-level evaluation of charter schools. A Report from the National Consensus Panel on Charter School Academic Quality contends that student engagement is “a precondition essential for achieving other educational outcomes.” In other words, engagement is a bellwether of academic achievement, the critical outcome educational concern. Whether engagement is high or low, achievement usually follows in the same direction. This information thus enables a program to make modifications, if needed, prior to summative evaluation. It is precisely for this reason that assessing engagement adds value to program evaluations. Here’s a simplified illustration of the role of engagement:
Unfortunately, even though engagement is an antecedent of achievement, it often is not assessed in evaluations. This omission may in part be due to program managers rather than evaluators. If managers don’t explicitly express an interest in assessing engagement, we as evaluators may be inclined to leave it at that and not push any further. My hope, however, is that you will take “program evaluation destiny” into your own hands. Through your awareness and use of this knowledge, you can improve quality of not only an evaluation, but also and more importantly – an educational program as a whole.
So how do you move from knowledge to implementation? Student attendance is one of the most common measures engagement. A shortcoming of this indicator, however, is that it doesn’t give a good indication about why students go to school. If most kids goes to school because the law or their parents force them to, then attendance alone can be a poor measure of engagement. Other measures therefore might include tardiness rates, rates of participation in school activities, or student satisfaction rates. For examples of survey items, see national surveys of middle and secondary school students. It’s especially important to assess at these levels because engagement declines after elementary school.
Of course, we’ve only scratched the surface on the topic of assessing engagement, but at least now you can move begin moving forward better than before. Good luck!
The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Ed Eval TIG Week with our colleagues in the PreK-12 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.