Sheila B Robinson

Reflections of an everyday educator/program evaluator/professional developer…LEARNER

Paradox Redux: A Pleasant Surprise


A few weeks ago, I wrote Exploring the Public Education Paradox – Evaluation and Public Education (response to Jamie Clearfield). Soon after bemoaning the apparent lack of understanding of evaluation and its role in public education, I was delighted to find a chapter devoted to program evaluation in an education book I’m reading with my colleagues.  I was even more excited to discover a section on theory of change and logic model. Seldom (if ever) have I seen these concepts addressed outside of an evaluation text.

The book is Coaching Matters*, a text on PK-12 teacher leadership, and is described by its authors as addressing “…whether coaching matters. In other words, does it work?” My point here is not to offer a book review, but rather to revel in the fact that a book written for educational pracitioners is framed by evaluative thinking! 

So, not only do the authors address the inputs, activities, and potential outcomes of teacher coaching programs, but they offer foundational evaluation lessons to the reader. Here are the points I’m thrilled to see addressed:

  • “The time to plan an evaluation of the coaching program…is before the program is implemented – many crucial decisions are made during the planning phase that will affect program evaluation.”
  • “Evaluation results are used to redesign and refocus the program for the future as evaluators learn what is working and what isn’t.”
  • “The theory of change is based on a set of assumptions that explain the actions and action sequence within the theory of change [the authors offer several examples of core assumptions].”
  • “Program designers write a specific theory of change to explain how coaching is expected to lead to changes in teaching and student achievement.”
  • “Designing the program with clear, measurable goals creates the framework for evaluating the coaching program.”
  • “An effective evaluation is rigorous and ongoing. It uses multiple measures over time.”

While this is likely not new learning for an evaluator, isn’t it wonderful to see basic tenets of evaluation outlined in a text for education professionals? I consider it a modicum of proof positive that evaluation is indeed, as Michael Scriven describes, the alpha discipline.

Coaching Matters

*by Joellen Killion, Cindy Harrison, Chris Bryan, and Heather Clifton; published by Learning Forward, 2012.

Author: Sheila B Robinson, Ed. D

Custom Professional Learning, LLC

4 thoughts on “Paradox Redux: A Pleasant Surprise

  1. What a pleasant surprise! I was also pleasantly surprised to find a few chapters on evaluation in a book about nonprofit leadership and management. The book is called “Managing to Change the World” by Allison Green and Jerry Hauser. It’s an interesting book because they talk about setting goals and then creating a “culture of excellence” that tracks performance towards those goals. I don’t think they ever used the word “evaluation,” even though they were describing an evaluation process and how evaluation can improve organizations.

  2. Thanks for letting us know about this book. What a welcome surprise to see evaluative thinking being promoted for K-12 programs. As a K-12 school program evaluator I often struggle with getting asked to “do an evaluation” long after the program has been in place. I’ll have to recommend this book to our professional learning staff. 🙂

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