In the schooling system, there is a significant orientation towards program design and evaluation. The premise underlying this orientation is to evaluate the validity, veracity, and effectiveness of school-based programs and curricula.
This objective is important because it delineates the learning and curricular practices that are effective from those which are not in specific contexts. Program evaluation holds a key to optimizing our teaching and learning practices.
But as the school vs. education divide widens, so too the objectives of program evaluations, which tend to emphasize school-based programs in school environments for standardized school objectives.
Program evaluations, although with various objectives, may seek to evaluate the “school” aspect of education such as its organizational capacity, resource allocation, and whether or not it meets their students’ needs.
However, there is a strong need to shift this perspective away from the school and towards education. In other words, program evaluations should focus on the “education” aspect and not the “school” aspect because we know now that these two concepts are separable and distinguishable.
The benefits of this reframing are significant. It orients practitioners, program designers, and program evaluators to philosophical thinking and how it influences teaching and learning practice. Moreover, it enables practitioners to adopt a more reflexive professional lifestyle that can benefit all stakeholders.
How might we achieve this within program evaluations?
- Clearly define what “education” and “school” means to the program team.
- Determine the most appropriate and methodological sound ways to evaluate aspects of the program related to education.
- Disseminate information from the perspective of education with specific considerations of how it may be applied in a schooling context.
tl;dr – Need to orient program evaluations towards “education” and not just “schools.”