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Balancing demands: Exploring dilemmas that can arise from evaluative research

Fiona Beals

Evaluative research is a powerful tool for education researchers. It is through evaluative research that the process of reflection and learning-in-action can occur for many practitioners in the field of education: from policy to the classroom and teacher practice.

It has been argued that the most reliable and valid technique of evaluative research is the utilisation of externally contracted researchers. The intention is to enable results to be, to the greatest extent possible, transparent and reflective of the perspectives of all involved in the evaluated programme.

However, no matter who performs the research, there are specific dilemmas to be addressed. These dilemmas are directly related to the expectations of the research and attitudes to the research of the many different groups or individuals involved in the evaluated programme and, further, the researcher’s strive for useful, valid, and reliable results.

This paper explores the dilemmas encountered in one piece of evaluative research: Evaluation of the Professional Development for ‘The Arts in the New Zealand Curriculum, finishing with responses to the dilemmas presented. The paper suggests that the dilemmas of evaluative research should be worked with so that evaluative research can be effective for all levels of the education sector.

Paper presented at the Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) / New Zealand Association for Research in Education (NZARE) conference, Auckland, 30 November - 3 December 2003.

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Fiona Beals