Valuing Our Community of Practice: Ongoing Program Evaluation
In collaboration with Katherine McWhaw, Dawson College, and Monica Lopez, Marianopolis College.
Program evaluation can be isolating work. At Heritage College where I work, it is rare that anyone is looking to have a conversation about program evaluation.
Since all cégeps are required to evaluate their programs of study, I realized that my counterparts in the network were probably experiencing the same type of isolation. My initial step in reaching out to my colleagues was to present our ongoing program evaluation approach (An ongoing approach to program evaluation is distinguished from a more comprehensive approach; in the former, all programs address one evaluation criterion at a time, whereas in the latter, one program addresses all 6 evaluation criteria at once.) at the 2011 AQPC symposium. During that session, which was attended by approximately 40 cégeps, it was suggested that an inter-cégep collaborative working group be set up. Session participants seemed to appreciate this suggestion, with many putting their names forward as potential members.
For me, this was the answer to isolation! The group would have to meet online, though, to curtail its cost and to ensure its viability. Early in the winter semester, 2012, I submitted a proposal to APOP for support through their APOP_Tandem project for three online meetings using the VIA platform. Once approved, I contacted everyone who had expressed interest, forming a group of nine. The group consisted of professionals, including one manager, from Heritage College, Champlain Regional College, Champlain St. Lambert, John Abbott, Dawson, Marianopolis and Vanier.Our online meetings were both highly informative and productive. We each presented an overview of our current approach and work on program evaluation, describing what works well and what is challenging. We quickly realized the value of the group as we heard from each other.
APOP and AQPC
Our online meetings were both highly informative and productive. We each presented an overview of our current approach and work on program evaluation, describing what works well and what is challenging. We quickly realized the value of the group as we heard from each other.
To give our group some direction and structure, we agreed on our purpose and outcomes by the end of the first meeting. Purpose: To discuss, share, and work collaboratively on ongoing program evaluation as a viable means to:
- Respond to our individual college needs.
- Accommodate individual program needs.
- Satisfy the CEEC (Commission d'évaluation de l'enseignement collégial du Québec) requirements regarding program evaluation.
Outcome: Ongoing program evaluation processes and tools that we can all adapt to our specific college environments.
We agreed to use Google Docs as the shared repository for our program evaluation documents and working documents. Of the participating colleges, Dawson, Marianopolis and Heritage, are currently practicing, or setting up the processes and tools to do ongoing program evaluation. We devoted both meetings #2 and #3 to discussing the slightly different approaches undertaken by each of the three cégeps. The discussions were constructive and insightful.
As a result of our online working group, my colleagues from Dawson and Marianopolis joined me at 2012 AQPC during a networking session, where we outlined our different approaches to ongoing program evaluation. Again, attending participants indicated their interest in joining our working group this fall.
The value-added of working collaboratively on program evaluation has become obvious! We have been able to meet colleagues working on evaluation tasks at other colleges, reducing the feeling of isolation felt especially in small colleges where this task is led by one person or a very small team. Technology has made it possible for us to share documents in a common virtual space and to work together without leaving our colleges. It has also made it possible to provide written and verbal feedback on each other’s evaluation initiatives and tools, which was for many the main outcome of this working group. I believe we have established a small community of practice that will not only reduce isolation but encourage us to learn from each other, building on processes and tools shared within our group.
If you are interested in joining our community of practice, please contact Lee Anne. We are interested to hear about the successes and challenges you have faced in ongoing program evaluation.
Please note that an extensive article about ongoing program evaluation will soon be appearing in Pedagogie Collegiale, the journal of the AQPC. An English version will be available online.