The Problem-Solving Approach to program evaluation: Development and application in a mathematics context
Kelly Mitchell Costner, The Ohio State University, United States
The Ohio State University . Awarded
This study developed and piloted the Problem-Solving Approach to program evaluation, which involves the direct application of the problem-solving process as a metaphor for program evaluation. A rationale for a mathematics-specific approach is presented, and relevant literature in both program evaluation and mathematics education is reviewed.
The Problem-Solving Approach was piloted with a high-school level integrated course in mathematics and science that used graphing calculators and data collection devices with the goal of helping students to gain better understanding of relationships between mathematics and science. Twelve students participated in the course, which was co-taught by a mathematics teacher and a science teacher. Data collection for the evaluation included observations, a pre- and posttest, student questionnaires, student interviews, teacher interviews, principal interviews, and a focus group that involved both students and their teachers.
Results of the evaluation of the course are presented as an evaluation report. Students showed improvement in their understandings of mathematics-science relationships, but also showed growth in terms of self-confidence, independence, and various social factors that were not expected outcomes. The teachers experienced a unique form of professional development by learning and relearning concepts in each other's respective fields and by gaining insights into each other's teaching strengths.
Both the results of the evaluation and the evaluation process itself are discussed in light of the proposed problem-solving approach. The use of problem solving and of specific problem-solving strategies was found to be prevalent among the students and the teachers, as well as in the activities of the evaluator. Specific problem-solving strategies are highlighted for their potential value in program evaluation situations. The resulting Problem-Solving Approach, revised through the pilot application, employs problem solving as a recursive process at three interconnected levels: the evaluation level (where the evaluator is problem solver), the program level (where teachers or other program administrators are problem solvers), and the mathematical task level (where students are problem solvers).
Costner, K.M. The Problem-Solving Approach to program evaluation: Development and application in a mathematics context. Ph.D. thesis, The Ohio State University.
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