An analysis of internally funded learning and teaching project evaluation in higher education

Publication Type:
Journal Article
International Journal of Educational Management, 2016, 30 (5), pp. 606 - 621
Issue Date:
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© 2016, © Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Purpose – In the higher education sector, the evaluation of learning and teaching projects is assuming a role as a quality and accountability indicator. The purpose of this paper is to investigate how learning and teaching project evaluation is approached and critiques alignment between evaluation theory and practice. Design/methodology/approach – The emergent realism paradigm provides the theoretical framework with a pragmatic approach to mixed-methods data collection. Thematic analysis was used to analyze the transcripts of interviews with 15 project leaders. Findings – Four key themes on project evaluation emerged: how evaluation is conceptualized, particularly the overlap, even conflation, between evaluation and research; capability building within the sector; resourcing in terms of time and money; and the role of an action-oriented approach to evaluation. The authors conclude that misalignment exists between evaluation theory and the practice of project evaluation and that this relationship can be further inhibited by a project leader’s perception of evaluation. Practical implications – A series of strategies for developing capacity across the higher education sector for project evaluation are presented. These include the development and provision of: a time allocation for evaluation in future and ongoing project plans with procedures to revisit the project and assess impact; models of how to incorporate evaluation into the research cycle; constructive feedback on evaluation reports from the university funding body; and networking opportunities to disseminate learnings from project evaluations. Originality/value – This study focusses on the under-researched area of evaluation of learning and teaching projects in higher education, providing research-based evidence for strategies to develop sector capacity.
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