According to Neuman and Cunningham (2009), an effective curriculum must provide an ample knowledge base that mirrors an understanding of students’ development as well as the skills, knowledge and dispositions required to shape suitable learning experiences for students (p.533). There are various aspects that determine the successful development as well as the implementation of a curriculum (Richards, 2001, p.286). There are a number of questions that must be addressed once a curriculum is formulated. These include:
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- Is the curriculum accomplishing its goals?
- What is taking place in schools and classrooms where the curriculum is being implemented?
- Are those affected by the curriculum (i.e. students, teachers, parents, administrators) pleased with the curriculum?
These questions must be addressed during evaluation since the curriculum focuses on diverse elements of a language program such as curriculum design; classroom processes; syllabus content; teachers; and students (Richards, 2001, p.287).
Purposes of Evaluation
Program accountability and program development are the two main purposes of language program evaluation. Accountability refers to the degree to which participants in a program are responsible for the quality of their work. In essence, accountability-based evaluation assesses the impact of a program at critical endpoints of an educational cycle and is normally carried out to benefit an external audience. On the other hand, development-based evaluation aims to augment the quality of the program during the implementation phase. There are three types of evaluation: formative, illuminative; and summative evaluation (Richards, 2001, p.288).
Formative evaluation is carried out to determine what aspects of the program work well and what ones require immediate attention. Thus, formative evaluation lends emphasis on continuing program development and improvement. Some of the relevant questions that must be addressed during the formative evaluation include: has sufficient time been spent on specific objectives? Have the placement tests positioned students at the appropriate level in the program? What kind of reception has the textbook received? Are the teachers using a suitable methodology? Are students/teachers facing difficulties with any element of the course? Are students adequately motivated by the program? Thus, data gathered during the formative evaluation is utilized to enhance the delivery of the program (Richards, 2001, p.288).
The illuminative evaluation aims to establish how various components of the program function. It also aims to provide an insight into the teaching and learning processes that take place in the program (Richards, 2001, p.289). The relevant questions to be addressed during illuminative evaluation are: In what ways do students execute group-work assignments? What forms of error-corrections tactics do teachers employ? What types of decisions do teachers use while teaching?
In what ways are lesson plans used by teachers? How do students comprehend the intentions of teachers during a lesson? Thus, much of classroom action research can be perceived as a form of illuminative evaluation since it emphasizes the manner in which students interpret the language course as well as how they understand their lessons. Under the illuminative evaluation phase, students are regularly interviewed by teachers to determine whether the learners understand what is being taught in the classroom (Richards, 2001, p.291).
Summative evaluation aspires to make decisions regarding the value of various components of the curriculum. In other words, it seeks to establish the effectiveness of the curriculum, its efficiency as well as its suitability (Richards, 2001, p.292). Summative evaluation occurs after a curriculum has been implemented and aspires to address questions such as: how successful was the course? Did it accomplish its goals? What did the students learn? Were the objectives adequate or do they require amendments? Was the time allocated to each unit enough? What issues emerged during the course? Were the teaching methods appropriate? Thus, a criterion for effectiveness must be established in order to ascertain the effectiveness of a course (Richards, 2001, p.293).
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There are various forms of measurements used to determine the effectiveness of a program. These are performance on tests; measures of acceptability; re-enrollment rate; and efficiency of the course. The last measure entails a reflection on the problems encountered during the curriculum, time used to plan and develop the curriculum as well as the amount of time required for consultation and meetings (Richards, 2001, p.293).
Issues in Program Evaluation Process
The audience for evaluation
There are various phases of participation in the evaluation process. During the planning and evaluation phase, it is crucial to discern the various types of audiences as well as the sort of information that appeals to them. For instance, in designing a new textbook series for publicly-funded schools, officials in the education ministry might want to know how the funds (provided for the project) are used and whether the project’s entire elements (i.e. workbook, teacher’s guide, and student books) are present in the school on time. The teachers might want to know whether the book offers enough materials for all classes. Vocational training centers might want to ascertain whether the book provides adequate training for students who aspire to join vocational training programs upon completion of their elementary education. In essence, the evaluation must satisfy all the stakeholders (Richards, 2001, p.294).
Some of the questions that might be asked by different audiences include:
- Students- what knowledge did I gain? How will this knowledge benefit me in the future? Do I need another course?
- Teachers- did I teach well? Did my students learn anything? Were the materials and course work useful? Was the organization of the course effective?
- Sponsor- was the amount of money spent on the course justified? Was the course managed appropriately? Did the course convey its intended purpose?
- Curriculum developers- was the course and materials designed appropriately? What elements of the course require amendments or replacing? Do students and teachers respond positively to the course? Do teachers require extra assistance with the course?
It is important to note that, during the planning and evaluation phase, these different types of audiences must be cautiously recognized and the outcomes of the evaluation process conveyed in a suitable way for each audience (Richards, 2001, p.296).
Participants in the evaluation process
Both the insiders and outsiders are important participants in the program evaluation process. Insiders refer to students, teachers and other people who are closely engaged in designing and implementing the curriculum (Wasik, Bond., & Hindman, 2006, p.63). For instance, formative evaluation is usually done by teachers who check a course as it develops as well as what problems are encountered.
Students are critical participants during the summative evaluation phase since they provide evidence of how they benefited from the course by completing evaluations on the manner in which the program was dispensed. Outsiders include administrators, consultants or inspectors who do not partake in the program development but may be requested to submit their objective opinions regarding various components of the program (Richards, 2001, p.296).
The aim of program evaluation is to encourage reflection, appraisal and amendment of the curriculum subject to a thorough compilation of information from various sources. It is crucial to assess the evaluation process and ensure that it was done properly before implementing the program. Some of the relevant questions in the evaluation process are: is the information compiled enough to meet the requirements for different audiences? Was objectivity observed during the compilation and processing of information? Is the program accurately described by the compiled information? Are ethical considerations fulfilled during the evaluation process? Once the evaluation process satisfies the principles of adequacy, a decision can then be made on how to use this information during the implementation phase (Richards, 2001, p.299).
Procedures used to execute program evaluation
Another crucial aspect relates to the procedure for executing program evaluations. There are several procedures that can be used to execute program evaluation. These include: (1) Tests- various forms of tests can be employed to assess amendments in learning at the end of a course; (2) Interviews- interviewing students and teachers is another effective method for collecting their opinions on any aspect of the course; (3) Questionnaires- they can be used to capture views of students and teachers on various issues of the program; (4) Teachers’ records- these may include written reports by teachers on material covered, the lesson taught as well as students’ grades. Teacher’s records can thus provide an insight into the effectiveness and weaknesses of the program (Richards, 2001, p.301).
Neuman, S., & Cunningham, L. (2009). The Impact of Professional Development and Coaching on Early Language and Literacy Instructional Practices. American Educational Research Journal, 46(2), 532-566.
Richards, JC. (2001). Curriculum Development in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wasik, B., Bond, M. & Hindman, A. (2006). The effect of a language and literacy intervention on Head start children and teachers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98, 63-74.