Introduction to evaluation

What is evaluation?

Evaluation offers a way to determine whether an initiative has been worthwhile in terms of delivering what was intended and expected.

An evaluation may ask what change has taken place or what progress has been made but in most instances, the purpose of evaluation is to inform future developments.

What makes a good evaluation? Determining the subject and scope of the evaluation helps to determine what methods might be used and what the potential limitations are. See examples of the kinds of activities and programmes evaluated in an attempt to understand various aspects of CPD impact. The questions in the framework​ can also help refine the subject and scope of evaluative work.

Ideally evaluation should be built into a programme at the design stage. Guskey (2002) suggests that the key is to ask good questions and that a good evaluation does not need extensive resources.

Evaluation should be rigorous, systematic and ethical. The process involves:

1. Identifying the focus of the evaluation and its purpose; what are the questions you need to answer?

2. Building on what is known: use, for example, existing tried and tested frameworks and tools.

3. Assembling evidence: consider what data or sources of evidence you already have. Use existing data as far as possible. Only collect new data if you do not already have enough evidence to answer your evaluation questions.

How to collect data​.

4. Analysing and interpreting: making sense of the data in relation to your questions and the context: drawing out conclusions and recommendations.

5. Communicating your findings and feeding back to stakeholders and participants.

6. Feeding into the development or refinement of the programme or activity being evaluated.

7. Evaluating over time: a long-term strategy to evaluation might enable you to assess different aspects of the CPD and make particular claims based on the findings.

The evaluation should be conducted ethically. This means it should conform to your institution's and/or your professional association's ethical guidelines for research and data protection, and also to relevant teaching and assessment policies. You may wish to refer to the British Educational Research Association Ethical Guidelines or to a set of ethical guidelines​ specifically relating to evaluations such as potential issues.

Potential issues

The effects of academic development in general, and teacher professional development in particular, are wide-ranging and evaluation should not be reduced to just measuring efficiency. As in many fields, development means not only building knowledge and skills but also developing a professional identity. The transfer of learning into practice happens over time and is subject to complex influences. Impact on student learning or engagement is particularly difficult to evaluate. Even if changes can be identified, attributing these to teacher professional development is extremely difficult.

Next: how to communicate your evaluation findings effectively