Scripting the Learning Process: Evaluative Inquiry in Five Acts

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Searle, Michelle Jennifer
Evaluation , Narrative
I have discovered that evaluation like my first passion, drama, challenges participants on a cognitive and personal level. In both evaluation and theatre, stories are told for the purpose of stimulating interest, reflection, and insights into the complexity of human behaviour. In the world of program evaluation judgements about program merit, worth, or significance are generated through an evaluator’s interactions with theory, stakeholders and colleagues. Program insights are thus tied to the quality and complexity of these interactions. This thesis tells the story of my transition from drama teacher-to-graduate student-to-evaluator-researcher. It begins with my motivations for this transition; includes my learning about internal, participatory and collaborative evaluation. Finally, this thesis speculates on how inquiry and experiences, such as the ones documented here, might inform the learning of other novice evaluators. It accomplishes this latter goal by making explicit the complexities of a participatory and collaborative evaluation process and the considerations and deliberations that I faced in attempting to enact this approach. This thesis reflects the fact that I have always used stories as a way to understand and make meaning, Presented in the structure of a play, this narrative purposefully examines the values, challenges, and possibilities for learning that arose in my collaboration with other evaluation colleagues. Over the five acts I reveal my growing understanding of evaluation theory and practice and how this was shaping my understanding of who I was becoming. The final Act explores the notion that professional learning and identity is not a fixed or exclusive concept. This thesis suggests that learning from experience is valuable in contributing to the growth of novices. In learning to do evaluation it is not enough to focus on models of practice or theoretical principles. Becoming an evaluator also requires attention to personal and interpersonal orientations and the monitoring of an evolving personal stance. In presenting this thesis I argue that the elements of my story have transferable qualities and that these elements can trigger conversation and insights beneficial to other novices or those charged with the induction of novices. The intended consequence is a richer understanding of evaluation as a human enterprise.
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