Project evaluation in higher education: a study of contextual issues

Elaine Huber, Marina Harvey

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    This paper reports on the second phase of a wider study on evaluation of locally funded learning and teaching projects in higher education. A review of the extant literature in this area shows that there is little evidence of the extent to which the alignment between theory and practice, or praxis, of such evaluation is achieved. The first phase established that the project leader's perception and conceptualisation of evaluation can inhibit achieving praxis. Consequently, the aim of the second phase was to investigate in detail the contextual factors impacting on project evaluation. Three case examples of internally funded learning and teaching projects provide the data for analysis using an explanatory approach. The projects share a focus on curriculum design in arts and humanities disciplines at an Australian university. A case study approach enabled the in-depth investigation of this contemporary phenomenon, within its real-life context. Data collection included interviews with each project manager and with the project lead; this was triangulated with the data of grant applications, final reports and meeting minutes. A thematic approach to coding the research data was adopted. One key finding indicates a disjunct of how evaluation is conceptualised between the project lead and the project manager. In addition, factors that influence the praxis of evaluation were also identified including timeframe; previous experience of leading a project; and the requirement (or lack thereof ) from the projects' grant funding body. Informed by the research findings, four strategies to enhance the adoption of systematic evaluation in small learning and teaching projects are presented; these strategies offer the potential to reach across disciplinary and sector boundaries in their application.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)19-37
    Number of pages19
    JournalEvaluation journal of Australasia
    Volume16
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016

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