Section 2.1 Definitions

Section 2.1 Definitions

Section 2.1 Definitions

As Lemos, Queirós, Teixeira, & Menezes (2010) report, definition in SET is not a straightforward process, with considerable disagreement over how to describe and operationally define quality, the goals and the focus of the evaluation.

Sample definitions include:

The main purpose of evaluating lectures, or any form of teaching, is to improve them (Brown & Atkins, 1988)


Educational evaluation is the process of delineating, obtaining and providing useful information for judging decision alternatives (Stufflebeam, 1971)


The function of evaluation is not so much to chalk up marks for the learner or tutor, as to give them both the chance to set the past in a realistic light and so release themselves into the future (Broadbent, 1977)


SET is often the most neglected and least understood aspect of curriculum design and development. Evaluation is often an afterthought, rather than an issue considered at the outset and aligned with the programme as a whole (Neary, 2000)


Curriculum evaluation is concerned with the collection and analysis of evidence about a course, the discussion of that evidence, the sharing of findings and suggestions among the interested parties’. This is to help further understand, develop, and where possible, improve the course (Eraut, 1982)


A programme evaluation covers a specific programme as a whole, or selected aspects thereof. Most often, the aim is to provide an overall assessment of the programme, and programme evaluations typically encompass all components that influence programme quality. This includes components like the study environment and the organisational framework in which the programme operates (Kristoffersen, 2003)


‘Evaluation is often viewed as a test of effectiveness – of materials, teaching methods or whatnot – but this is the least important aspect of it. The most important is to provide intelligence on how to improve these things’ (Bruner, 1966, as cited in Ramsden, 2003).


Operational definition – SETs used in HE to assess instructors’ performance and to provide a means of accountability for the college/university (Williams & Ceci, 1997) – though uses tend to be more managerial than developmental (Newport, 1996).


“Evaluation is often viewed as a test of effectiveness – of materials, teaching methods or whatnot – but this is the least important aspect of it. The most important is to provide intelligence on how to improve these things” (Bruner, 1966, cited in Ramsden, 2003, p.223)


Activity 2.1

Consider the above definitions, any that you may have come across already, and your own experiences of evaluation: what do you feel is the key defining issue for SET, and how has this impacted on your teaching?

Submit your answers


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