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Evaluation in tertiary education: How does evaluation contribute to organisational self-assessment

Heather Hamerton and Amanda Torr

In Aotearoa New Zealand, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) has an evaluative quality-assurance framework for all non-university tertiary education organisations. NZQA expects organisations to engage in their own self-assessment to maintain and improve quality and achieve outcomes. However, NZQA allows each organisation to decide its own methods, so long as self-assessment is systematic and planned, and improvement activities and decisions are evidence based. In 2015, our organisation decided to undertake a programme of evaluation as part of organisational self-assessment. The programme focused mostly on carrying out small-scale formal evaluations of new initiatives, activities, and programmes that were achieving good learner outcomes. This article describes three case-study examples to illustrate the range of evaluation activities completed to date. In our experience, evaluation provides a strong mechanism for education providers to define what quality is, taking into account the outcomes students, communities, and employers are seeking, as well as the external benchmarks and output measures government agencies use. Our experiences of evaluation have implications for evaluators. We have demonstrated that evaluation capability can be enhanced by teaming novice evaluators with those who are more experienced. We have also noted that organisational culture and leadership are crucial in ensuring evaluation findings are implemented. Multiple lenses on quality allow institutions to develop and demonstrate their ability to respond to the changing needs of students and stakeholders and enable students’ skill development to be recognised. We have found that evaluation builds confidence: in teachers to innovate and do things differently; in communities to work closely with providers to ensure their needs are met; in quality-assurance agencies that education standards meet required national and international benchmarks; and in funders who want to know public funding is being used wisely.

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