Faculty of Education - Theses

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    An analysis of evaluative reasoning in education program evaluations conducted in Australia between 2014 – 2019
    Meldrum, Kathryn Janet ( 2022)
    The Australian government spends millions of dollars every year on grants that support new and innovative programs in the education sector. For example, in the 2020- 2021 Australian budget, financial support for interventions in the primary and secondary school sectors equalled more than $72.9 million dollars. Usually, and in order to account for spending the money, granting bodies ask for an evaluation of the intervention. One of the key activities of evaluation is to determine the value, merit or worth of a program. This is achieved by reaching an evaluative conclusion/judgement about the educational intervention that is credible, valid, and defensible to stakeholders. The defensibility of an evaluative conclusion/judgement relies partly on legitimate and justified arguments. In evaluation, legitimate arguments are made using the logic of evaluation. Justified arguments are made using evaluative reasoning. However, the reasoning process underpinning the logic is doubly important because readers need to be convinced of the credibility, validity, and defensibility of the evaluative conclusion/judgement. This study investigated the presence of a legitimate and justified evaluative conclusion/judgement in publicly available education evaluations conducted in Australia between 2014-2019. Using the systematic quantitative analysis method and new integrated logic of evaluation and evaluative reasoning conceptual framework, this study found that only four of the 26 evaluations analysed provided a legitimate and justified evaluative conclusion/ judgement about program value. The remaining 22 ‘evaluations’ were categorised as research because while they provided descriptive facts about the intervention, they did not ascribe value to it. The findings highlight the need for more credible, valid, and defensible evaluations of educational programs, achieved in part by using evaluative reasoning, as they provide an evidence-base for decision-making and for ensuring that quality education is available to all members of society.