Am I Doing a Good Job? Theories of Change Guiding Lecturers’ Self-Evaluative Practices in a Third Level Institute of Technology in Ireland

Denise MacGiolla Rí

Abstract


Making value judgements on one’s academic work is a fundamental skill, particularly for those within the higher education sector. Evaluative practices such as reflection in and on action (Schön, 1987; Cowan, 2006) and surveys on teaching effectiveness (Jones, Gaffney-Rhys and Jones, 1987; Praslova, 2010) are often proposed as a means of gathering evidence. The aim of this paper is to ask what theories of change (ToC) (Connell and Kubisch, 1999), self-evaluative practices, and barriers to effective implementation could be identified and what level of freedom and autonomy lecturers experience in evaluating their own work. This small study used a RUFDATA evaluative tool (Saunders, 2000) with sixteen full-time lecturers and took place in an Institute of Technology (IoT) in Ireland. Five theories of change were identified (1) transformative focused, (2) profession focused, (3) discipline focused, (4) workplace focused and (5) module focused, along with six self-evaluation practice themes and nine barriers to effective practice. Utilising Bamber’s (2011b) discretion framework, participants were found to have autonomy in choosing what and how to evaluate their practice. The practical knowledge (Habermas, 1971) presented here offers an alternative approach to how academic work is ‘valued’, judged and understood from the lecturer’s perspective. This paper proposes the view of self-evaluation, not as a set of standalone practices, but as part of a sequential process arising from a lecturer’s purposeful academic intentions. The theories of change are used to judge the value of their work within the setting. Therefore, the proposed categories can offer a discourse to justify specific self-evaluative practices for quality assurance and enhancement.


Keywords


higher education, quality assurance, quality enhancement, RUFDATA, self-evaluative practice, theories of change (ToC).

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