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A Values-Engaged, Educative Approach for Evaluating Education Programs: A Guidebook for Practice


This guidebook presents practical guidelines for evaluators of education programs. It presents these guidelines within a values-engaged, educative framework for evaluation.
Values engagement has two main dimensions. First, it signals purposeful attention to the values that are intrinsic in education programs, including value differences that may be present among key program stakeholders. Take, for example, the program challenges of prioritizing among different learning outcomes. Performance on standardized tests may be highly valued by some stakeholders, while problem solving competence may be prized by others, and laboratory skills by yet others. Evaluators using this evaluation approach aspire to be inclusive in their engagement with these varied value stances as part of assessing program quality and further to promote stakeholder dialogue about them. Such dialogue, we believe, can advance the evaluations educative goals of better program understanding, program improvement, and enhanced student learning.
In the second dimension of values engagement, evaluators pay special attention to the values of diversity and equity. Diversity refers to the traditional socio-demographic markers such as class, gender, race, alongside the multiple other ways people are different from one another such as talents, humor, learning styles. Equity in this approach is concerned with the treatment of diverse program participants and other relevant stakeholders. Treatment refers to access and the opportunity to participate and benefit from a program. These three strands of equity in an education program access, participation, and accomplishment are all important areas of focus for the values-engaged education program evaluator. This special focus on equity draws attention to the particular educational histories, contexts, and needs of the children, youth, and adult learners who remain underserved by our public schools and our community education programs. In this evaluation approach, an equitable education program is one in which all potential participants particularly those least well served in that context have opportunities for participation, meaningful learning, and accomplishment.
The educative part of this evaluation approach means that it is intended to facilitate learning and better understanding about the program being evaluated its underlying logic, contextual appropriateness, potential power to effect change, connections to relevant standards and research evidence, and overall quality all from diverse stakeholder perspectives. This approach, therefore, is best suited for evaluations that include assessments of program design and implementation, as well as program outcomes. Programs at the efficacy stage of development are perhaps the best match for this evaluation approach, although it can be well used in multiple contexts.