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1 1¥¥ An Introduction to Useful and Used Evaluation in Language Education JOHN McE. DAVIS THE GOAL OF THIS book is to help language educators conduct useful evaluation in language education programs.It comes at a time in language education when instructors are increasingly called upon to conduct evaluation themselves in their classrooms and institutions. Growing desires for educational accountability and quality assurance have led to increased evaluation and assessment requirements imposed by accreditors, school districts, and federal and state governments (to name a few). While contemporary evaluation in language education is still often conducted by peer reviewers and evaluation professionals (as has been the practice for many years), more and more commonly the responsibility for doing evaluation now falls to the language instructor, lead teacher, section chair, or curriculum committee. The primary aim of this book, then, is to help language educators meet the various contemporary demands for evaluation and assessment now commonplace in US language education, and to conduct evaluation in ways that lead to meaningful programmatic decisions and change. In addition, this guide advocates for a particular view of evaluation as an inherently worthwhile mode of educational inquiry, rather than merely a process of judging educational quality. We further suggest that evaluation is most effective when its impetus is less a reaction to outside requirements and more something that emanates naturally and organically from within a program where instructors, administrators, and leadership take ownership of evaluation and engage in consistent, evidence-based decision-making. In the same way that time, effort, and resources are routinely dedicated to teaching, curriculum review, assessment, and professional development, so too should evaluation be an integral part of the daily business of teaching languages. To these ends, our aim is to impart foundational evaluation knowledge and skills that help create a“culture of evaluation” and enable stakeholders to better understand and improve language teaching and learning. 2 John McE. Davis Evaluation Use and Usefulness Conducting useful evaluation is a deceptively straightforward aim. Doing evaluation that results in concrete action, decision-making, and meaningful change is, in fact, a tremendous challenge. An important goal for this book, then, is to help readers plan and implement evaluation in a way that enhances the ultimate usefulness and use of evaluation in language programs. This may seem like a banal and obvious point. Of course evaluation should be useful. Why make this distinction? Naturally, educators and other stakeholders need information to better understand and improve their programs, and evaluation is a process that helps them do this. By its very nature, evaluation is a useful activity. Why state the obvious? In fact, research has shown, to the contrary, that evaluation is vulnerable to non-usefulness and lacking use of evaluation findings. Despite a considerable potential for shedding light on issues and problems in educational programs, evaluation does not always straightforwardly lead to this end. Indeed, readers may have experienced instances where evaluation activities failed to have intended or useful impacts. Perhaps recommendations from a program review failed to be implemented. Perhaps student and teacher evaluations are collected consistently but without any demonstrable use toward improvement or change. Perhaps requirements from the university or college administration to engage in assessment of student outcomes has created additional work and taken up valuable time but without any tangible benefits to student learning or teaching. If these scenarios sound familiar, they are examples of a lesson long learned in evaluation research and practice—the efficacy and usefulness of an evaluation is not a given. Rather, actual use of evaluation findings is something evaluators must carefully plan for and nurture throughout an evaluation project (Norris 2016).This being the case,we advocate in this book for an evaluation approach that calls for an intentional and systematic focus on evaluation use and usefulness throughout evaluation planning and implementation . It is an approach strongly influenced by the ideas of Michael Quinn Patton and his “utilization-focused” evaluation model, and also elaborated by the main proponent of a use-focused evaluation approach in language education, John Norris (2006, 2008, 2016). Patton (2008, 37) defines utilization-focused evaluation as follows: Utilization-focused evaluation is evaluation done for and with specific intended primary users for specific, intended uses. Utilization-focused evaluation begins with the premise that evaluations should be judged by their utility and actual use; therefore, evaluators should facilitate the evaluation process and design any evaluation with careful consideration for how everything that is done, from beginning to end, will affect use. Use concerns how...


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