Education, and by extension educational research, has an important role to play in preparing young people for active citizenship in the future. The responsibilities of schools and school leaders in that respect have changed significantly. Schools are indeed expected to take the lead in addressing some of the macro-problems of states and societies (OECD, 2019). In order to meet these expectations, the quality of their provided education is of crucial importance. Because of decentralized educational policies across educational systems, schools are increasingly expected to monitor this quality themselves. In order to so, school self-evaluation has become an important strategy in the framework of evaluation and quality assurance in many education systems (Eurydice, 2015; OECD, 2013). School self-evaluation can be defined as a systematic process in which well-considered participants describe and evaluate the functioning of the school for the purposes of making decisions and undertaking actions in the context of school development (Vanhoof & Van Petegem, 2010, p. 20). This definition refers explicitly to carefully chosen participants that can be part of an SSE process. In fact, the involvement of stakeholders in processes of evaluation and planning is seen as very valuable, which connects to tendencies that indicate that the distribution of power and agency within organisation is a key driver for improvement (Hargreaves & Fink, 2012; Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012). In education, many stakeholders could be thought as possible partners, but students and parents are often viewed upon as primary stakeholders (Hooge, Burns, & Wilkoszewski, 2012). Next to variation in who is selected as a stakeholding group to be part of an SSE, there can also be a variation in the extent to which stakeholders are included throughout the SSE process. An entire SSE process comprises different activities such as, at the start of the process, deciding on the focus of the SSE for example, and, more at the end, the development of an improvement plan. It might be possible that certain stakeholding groups are more involved in specific activities but not throughout the entire process of SSE. Depending on the involvement across the stages of an SSE process, stakeholders can have different roles (Fielding, 2001). Stakeholders can be merely recipients of evaluation results or passive sources of information, but can also have an active agents during all stages of an evaluation process (Cousins & Chouinard, 2012; Cousins & Earl, 1995). Earlier research points out that there are indications of individual schools that are varying in how they include different stakeholders. However, it remains unclear to what extent schools indeed differ in how they involve stakeholders in SSE processes. More insights on how schools successfully implement the voice of stakeholders in SSE activities, can enhance the quality of SSE and make it reach its full potential. The awareness of the presence of these stakeholders and other partners has been growing, and they can be looked upon as important voices that can contribute to a school’s functioning. For instance, communication at school is found to be enforced by the involvement of different voices during (self-)evaluation processes (Davies, Williams, Yamashita, & Ko Man-Hing, 2006). Moreover, it is argued that there is also an indirect impact on the quality of the delivered education and the students’ achievement (Roberts & Nash, 2009).
This paper reports on the second phase of an Erasmus + Project titled “Distributed Evaluation and Planning in European Schools (DEAPS)” which is seeking to explore mechanisms and supports for the inclusion of parents and students in school evaluation and planning processes in four European countries: Belgium, Ireland, Portugal, and Turkey. From this, based on a review of the literature, phase 2 of the study was implemented and consisted of the development of a substantial survey of current practice in the partner countries. From the realist synthesis, key themes relating to DEAPS were isolated and a pilot survey was then developed and tested in all of the partner countries. Appropriate alterations where made to the survey and were applied in the Spring of 2018. The population of the study was composed of school leaders of schools in Belgium (Flanders), Ireland, Portugal, and Turkey. The key themes of the survey revolved around the differentiated strategies and challenges faced by educators towards the implementation of DEAPS. Analysis of survey data was initially conducted per country using both parametric and non-parametric statistical techniques. Survey results were also compared between each country to find commonalities and differences relating to DEAPS practices in the partner countries.
The project results show that the involvement of stakeholder voice is different across the participating countries. Preliminary results from the survey point out that the voice of stakeholders is only to a limited extent represented in the conduct of school self-evaluation activities. Far and foremost, teachers are the primary stakeholders that are given a voice in SSE. Students and especially parents have only a limited role to play in SSE. If they are granted a role, than it could be described as a mere information source. Different aspects were found to impact this involvement. Across the participating countries within the project, school leaders report that different policies and facilitating factors are at play. It is clear that there is no training available for school on how they could involve the voice of stakeholders in their SSE activities. Based on the outcomes of the survey this project ultimately aims to identify areas in which materials could be developed for schools in order to enhance their practices regarding stakeholder voice in SSE. The paper further discusses implications for educational policy at the level of school (internal) evaluation, and the field of SSE. Especially the role of (external) facilitators of SSE will be discussed.
Cousins, J. B., & Chouinard, J. A. (2012). Participatory evaluation up close: An integration of researchbased knowledge: IAP. Cousins, J. B., & Earl, L. M. (1995). The case for participatory evaluation: Theory, research, practice. In J. B. Cousins & L. M. Earl (Eds.), Participatory evaluation in education: Studies in evaluation use and organizational learning (pp. 3-18). Washington DC: Falmer Press. Davies, L., Williams, C., Yamashita, H., & Ko Man-Hing, A. (2006). Inspiring schools: Impact and outcomes. Taking up the Challenge of Pupil Participation. Retrieved from London: Eurydice. (2015). Assuring Quality in Education: Policies and Approaches to School Evaluation in Europe. Retrieved from Luxembourgh: Fielding, M. (2001). Students as Radical Agents of Change. Journal of Educational Change, 2(2), 123-141. doi:10.1023/a:1017949213447 Hargreaves, A., & Fink, D. (2012). Sustainable leadership (Vol. 6). San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons. Hargreaves, A., & Fullan, M. (2012). Professional capital: Transforming teaching in every school. New York: Teachers College Press. Hooge, E. H., Burns, T., & Wilkoszewski, H. (2012). Looking beyond the numbers: Stakeholders and multiple school accountability (1993-9019). Retrieved from Paris: OECD. (2013). Syngergies for Better Learning: An International Perspective on Evaluation and Assessment Retrieved from Paris: OECD. (2019). Trends Shaping Education 2019. Roberts, A., & Nash, J. (2009). Enabling students to participate in school improvement through a Students as Researchers programme. Improving Schools, 12(2), 174-187. doi:10.1177/1365480209106590 Vanhoof, J., & Van Petegem, P. (2010). Evaluating the quality of self-evaluations: The (mis)match between internal and external meta-evaluation. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 36(1–2), 20-26. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.stueduc.2010.10.001
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