Evaluating New Technology: Formative Evaluation of Intelligent Computer Assisted Instruction
Evaluation processes are touted to be productive mechanisms for the improvement of educational systems and products. And there is hard evidence of the utility of evaluation in actually improving technology based products and efforts in instructional development. Evaluation is known as well as to contain a strong negative potential. Evaluation can identify weaknesses in such a way as to inhibit exploratory behavior and risk taking on the part of researchers and developers. Playing it safe may be seen to be the winning strategy. Evidence of evaluation utilization studies suggests that when the focus of the evaluation is classification or accountability (good vs. bad; useful vs. wasteful), the openness of R & D project personnel to evaluation processes is inhibited. Formative evaluation, on the other hand, is evaluation whose specific function is to identify strengths and weaknesses for the purpose of improving the product or system under development (Baker, 1974; Baker and Alkin, 1973; Markle, 1967; Baker and Soloutos, 1974). The trick, of course, is in determining what should be studied, in what context the evaluation should take place, when evaluation processes are most useful, and in skilled hypothesis generation about what improvement options logically and feasibly may be implemented. In addition, the identification of weaknesses (no matter how benign the intentions of the evaluation may be) creates a documentary trail that might be misused by project managers or funding agency monitors.
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