EVALUATION

Many organisations fear evaluation. They think it’s all about measuring success and about punishing them for failing to meet their targets. This is particularly the case for schools which, in many countries, face the constant anxiety of being evaluated by government inspectors. The worry that inspectors may arrive with little prior warning and downgrade their school’s status from ‘outstanding’ to ‘good’ – or worse – is a constant nightmare for staff and students. In this context, evaluation is often seen in a negative way, as one of the factors that drive organisational performance anxiety.
But when it is used to help organisations to learn how to do things better, evaluation is a very powerful tool to support change and innovation. To help organisations learn, evaluation needs to be used not just as a retrospective tool to assess performance, for example at the end of a school year (‘ex-post’ evaluation). Rather, it needs to be embedded within the organisational process to support a cycle of continuous improvement. This means that evaluation can and should be used to help schools design and develop their change planning (‘ex-ante’ evaluation). It also means that evaluation can and should be applied to monitor and assess progress as the school moves forward to implement its plan for change (‘formative’ evaluation). In this sense, evaluation has an important role to play in helping schools calculate how far they have travelled on their ‘change journey’.
Essentially, the role of evaluation in organisations is not to drive perfection but to understand what is relevant, what can be controlled and what can’t, what is good enough and above all what can be applied from learned experience to help the organisation change for the better.

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