23 SES 12 A, Transitions in Education, Evaluation and Practices of Support
The container notion of participation has powerfully penetrated educational policies and school projects in Europe, at various levels. Since the emergence and spread of the Third Way narrative in UK, on the one hand, and current trends in the reform of the Welfare States caused by the debt crisis, on the other, the very idea of participation has been increasingly intertwined to new notions of governance and the reassessment of the relations between the public and the private (Franklin et al., 2003).
Beyond ideologies, though often linked to them (Frideres 1992), a prolific debate has been developed around the methodological implications of participation both in collaborative research approaches (eg. PAR) and in public policy implementation, drawing on the related ideas of collaboration, involvement and partnering.
As a methodological element, participation is fostered as it is supposed to improve reliability of data, efficiency of the procedures and it represents a clear commitment with the empowerment of target groups traditionally absent from research and political decision making procedures. Furthermore, public administrations have increasingly applied deliberative democratic tools offering more room for active "civic engagement" (Putnam 1993).
Nevertheless, these methodological and policy approaches have evolved without a proper and extensive evaluation of its impact beyond their promising outputs. Given the importance that these ideas and methodologies have had, framing important programs to improve the school attendance and academic results of historically marginalized groups (eg.the Roma) or other emerging groups “at risk” (eg. migrant communities, etc.), it is critical to review what empirical pieces of evidence we have about the convenience and the efficiency (a not only the effectiveness) of these measures.
Following an increasing body of research critical to these approaches (Frideres 1992; Cooke & Kothari 2001; Mohanty & Tandon 2006; Mohan & Stokke 2000; Smith et al. 2010), the objective of this communication is two-folded. Firstly, it aims to analyze and make reflections on research targeting participation initiatives including both a macro and micro perspectives, that is, focusing both on wider educational policies and its implementation in specific contexts. Consequently, we will ask:
- To what extent can ethnographic research analyze participation “in action” in specific environments?
- What are the existing dynamics and tensions in the implementation of these policies in particular organizational fields such as schools? What role, if any, do other “intermediate spaces” or "interfaces" operating between them play, such as local authorities or stakeholders? (Rosen 2003; Cornwall 2004; Lopez et al., 2005)
Secondly, this paper proposes emphasize the importance of implementing proper assessments and evaluations in order to fully understand the outcomes as well as expected and unexpected impacts of these interventions and methodologies drawing on the notion of participation. Related questions we make are:
- How can participation be properly evaluated? How can we improve disaggregation of a wide range of variables involved in these policies and practices?
- How can these evaluations go beyond outputs and measure impact?
- Can the evaluation of participation be improved precisely by using ‘participatory/collaborative’ methodologies?
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