Module 12: Evaluation

In this document:

Constructivist Evaluation – an exercise

Activity: Large group work
Section Time: Approximately 30 minutes
Materials: Pens and note paper for all participants

Show and talk to Slide 12.1 (Evaluation) outlining the goal of the evaluation module:


This evaluation tool that has been chosen as an alternative to more commonly used models, because it can provide more meaningful feedback and enable genuine improvements in course design and delivery.

This is an evaluation exercise to be used as the last module of the training course. It takes about 30 minutes but can be extended to allow for increased depth of processing. It can be supported by an explanting of the theoretical basis or can just run without any preliminary explanation.

The set-up

Arrange two circles of chairs, the inner one facing outwards, and the outer one facing inwards, so that each chair from the inner circle faces one chair from the outer circle. Have just the right number of chairs for participants.

The process

For the first round, participants are invited to spend 5 minutes in silence reflecting on their experience of the course, and recording on a blank piece of A4 paper two categories of assertion about the course:

Claims: something positive about the course they would wish to tell others
Concerns: something they felt had not worked for them

This is then followed by a round of discussions. First of all each pair (seated opposite one another) speak for 10 minutes. Participants are invited to annotate their own Claims and Concerns indicating areas of consensus, and documenting any Issues (where no consensus is reached).

Call time when the period is over. The outer circle people are then asked to move along 3 chairs, and then repeat their discussions with their new opposite number.

Potentially, repeat a third time.

At the end of the final round, the sheets of A4 paper are collected to be reproduced in the report.

An alternative process

For the first round, participants are invited to spend 5 minutes in silence reflecting on their experience of the course. In this alternative process everyone would be offered the two questions to focus feedback. For example something open-ended like:

  • What has happened over the past three days that will bring about changes for you?
  • What could have happened differently to make the past three days more effective for you?
  • Are there ways that the training content could be improved to enhance people’s learning?

Then invite the pairs (occupying the facing chairs) to discuss the two questions for a time-limited period, usually 10 minutes. Call time when the period is over. The outer circle people are then asked to move along 3 chairs, and then repeat their discussions with their new opposite number.

Potentially, repeat a third time.

Then invite individuals to spend up to 10 minutes in silence writing down their answers to the questions on blank pieces of A4 that you distribute to them all.

At the end of the final round, the sheets of A4 paper are collected to be reproduced in the report.

Supporting content:

An introduction to constructivist evaluation

(adapted with permission and guidance from Dr Mark Waters, www.scalingtheheights.com)

Evaluation is purposeful, applied social research. In contrast to basic research, evaluation should be undertaken to solve practical problems and in this case support development of the training module. For any evaluation to be meaningful data needs to be collected, the results need to be collated, interpreted, reflected upon and reported back in order to improve the training learning experience and to ensure good match with expected outcomes.

Evaluation can be regarded as:

“Gathering information about all or part of an educational programme or process for the purpose of making judgements about its merit on the basis of which developments may occur”

(Coles & Grant, 1985)

Constructivist evaluation has been explained by Guba and Lincoln (Fourth Generation Evaluation, 1989) when describing a process of educational evolution of evaluation over the previous century. Constructivism changes the nature of evaluation in that it becomes a negotiation process that attempts to draw a consensus on better informed and more sophisticated constructions or understanding. Data derived from constructivist evaluation represent simply construction, or views to be taken into account in the move towards consensus.

There is a distinct humility in taking a relativist (anti-positivist) approach to reality and truth. In place of the arrogance of seeking (and claiming to find) absolutes, we have a meek, courteous, questioning; an attempt to constantly revise what one believes in the face of reasonable challenge. This is a constantly evolving, context-specific view of reality and one that ultimately can provide a more sophisticated understanding of the training process and readily contributes to training programme development. This doesn’t necessarily make any more typical quantitative or other qualitative evaluation data redundant, but complements it.

In constructivist evaluation, the data collected is mainly the testimony of those involved in the educational event or process. This testimony is of course subjective, context-specific and value-laden. This is gathered in contrast with conventional science and most evaluations, which strive to be objective, value-free, and generalisable.

Constructivist evaluation process:

There is no single way to conduct constructivist evaluation. The principles are actually more important than any standardised approach.

Identify the stakeholders you will be involving

This would include participants’ facilitators, and other stakeholders.

Gather testimony from the stakeholders/participants

Specifically seek “Claims, Concerns and Issues” A Claim is any assertion that a stakeholder may introduce that is favourable. A Concern is any assertion that is unfavourable. An Issue is any state of affairs about which stakeholders continue to disagree

Facilitate negotiation between different stakeholders/participants regarding their constructs (their experiences and views)

Try to establish consensus on a more sophisticated construct as far as possible. Where no consensus can be achieved, this implies that it may be necessary to find other data (often from other stakeholders, other evaluation processes, or published literature).
When more data have been obtained, ideally this should be presented to the original stakeholders, to allow further negotiation, and production of still more sophisticated constructions.

Identify the remaining unresolved issues and prioritise them

This might require further data collection from ‘experts’ to help resolve issues and also establish where unresolved issues remain. In a sense the summary of the evaluations of the participants is only an initial phase, and the evaluation process may continue with further input from other stakeholders subsequent to training evaluation.

Write a summary of the process and conclusions

The report should represent the multiple realities encountered during the evaluation. It should be honest about the negotiated construct, and how it has been produced. The report may resemble a case report, with a narrative flow which can allow the reader to feel they have experienced the evaluation themselves. Recommendations would be reflected in the final training module with the report giving evidence to support any changes as agreed and facilitating transparency and ownership among stakeholders.

index ¦ top