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Drawing on theoretical knowledge to build evaluation capacity

Lisa Dyson
Abstract: 

Many organisations engage in self-evaluation. This requires organisational capacity to undertake evaluation and then capacity to make use of evaluation findings. Organisations lacking sufficient capacity often engage in evaluation capacity building (ECB). Most ECB literature describes how professional external evaluators build organisational evaluation capacity. In contrast, this study explored how people who are not professional evaluators are building evaluation capacity within their own organisations. This study identified four high schools in two geographic areas that are effective at the ongoing self-evaluation processes expected of all New Zealand schools. In-depth interviews were conducted with 13 educators at these secondary schools and the resulting data were analysed inductively. The findings highlighted that educators appeared to draw on learning theory to build organisational evaluation capacity. In contrast with many other ECB efforts in education, these schools emphasised building capacity for sense making and data interpretation. They built capacity by using collaboration, modelling, and the development and use of tools, all important concepts in sociocultural learning theory. This article contributes to the conversation around ECB by recommending greater attention be paid to the role of learning theories, specifically sociocultural theory. Although other organisational contexts will vary, the lessons learnt from these schools illuminate potential strategies for any organisation seeking to increase its capacity to conduct and use programme evaluations in its everyday activities.

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