What is evaluation?

The concept of evaluation is currently receiving a lot of attention in very different fields. Alongside classic evaluation fields such as development policy cooperation, evaluation has now matured into a concept that has become relevant to, amongst others, the public health sector, administration, environmental policy, schools and the area of social services. It is also of increasing relevance to industry and, not least, to higher education institutes.

Forms and functions of evaluation

However, this involves a very sophisticated understanding of evaluation. It is possible to differentiate between project and program evaluations, as well as organizational evaluations. Project evaluations are those procedures which aim at analyzing the success factors of completed projects and generate specific results, but which are fundamentally intended to be limited. Programs are also generally organized in the form of projects, yet go beyond this in the sense that the question of their long-term implementation is the main focus. As such, in the context of program evaluations questions of transferability and impact analysis - in the sense of both planned and unplanned effects - are of particular significance. Organizational evaluations are aimed first and foremost at the quality development of facilities which are set up for the long term. Thus, unlike project and program evaluations, the issue for organizational evaluations is much less a decision about the continuance of the facility, and more oriented towards how to achieve restructuring in the short and medium term that will help to increase quality. These forms of evaluation can be matched to accordingly different paradigms of evaluation. We can differentiate between control, development and research paradigms. While all forms of evaluation have some degree of research connection, project evaluations are primarily aimed at the testing of intended project results, and can thus be matched in the first instance to the control paradigm. In contrast, program evaluations have both testing and, with regard to the transferability and implementation of programs, development characteristics. Finally, organizational evaluations can predominantly be matched to the development paradigm. Under this premise, project evaluations can generally be classed as summative; this means that, in contrast to formative evaluations, they are conducted without the provisional findings being communicated to the person taking on the project. Program evaluations can be classed as both summative and formative, and organizational evaluations as formative.

Evaluation of higher education institutes

The understanding of evaluation in the area of higher education institutes, both nationally and internationally, also differs greatly in some areas. Some countries prefer to adopt a procedure that is predominantly based upon a quantitative concept of quality, and where there is a direct connection between the frequentation of individual higher education institutes and events and the apportionment of funds. Whereas such an approach shows a close connection to controlling in the higher education institutes, in Germany course surveys, alumni surveys, teaching reports and ultimately all procedures that focus more strongly upon process quality are addressed under the heading "evaluation". At Johannes Gutenberg University, evaluation is primarily discussed and carried out using the last-mentioned approach above, which extensively considers questions relating to the organization of research and studies in the subject areas and departments. In accordance with the Mainz model for evaluation, the basis for this approach is formed by the function of evaluation as a tool for quality development, which brings together different perspectives and identifies potential on the basis of a strengths and weaknesses analysis. In this form, it provides the subject areas, departments and also the university as a whole with a basis for making structural decisions.