Delegated Evaluation Policies – Consequences of Delegating Internal Evaluations to Higher Education Institutions
Suggestion for panel 1: Travelling, diffusion and translation of ideas and policies in the area of post-secondary education
Chairs: Jens Jungblut (University of Oslo), Tim Seidenschnur (University of Kassel)
Even though an "Evaluitis" (Frey 2007) was diagnosed a decade ago and the "Evaluation Society" (Dahler-Larsen 2015) recently proclaimed, evaluations experienced their first boom in the 1960s and 1970s. At that time, they were primarily seen as a means of an evidence-based review of the effectiveness of political reform programs. Since then, not only the image of evaluation has tremendously changed but also its diffusion around the globe.
Decades ago, higher education institutions have experienced the establishment of internal and external evaluation practices. However, higher education institutions have not necessarily developed internal evaluation policies voluntarily. Many of them were rather forced by international standards, which lead to state regulations that delegated the development of internal evaluation policies to higher education institutions (Seyfried &Ansmann 2018; Seyfried/Ansmann & Pohlenz 2019).
Therefore and as a starting point, we apply the delegation approach and agency theory in political systems (Strøm 2000) on internal evaluations of teaching and learning in higher education institutions in Germany. We argue that the delegation chain contains multiple-principals and multiple-agents (European Union, member states, regions or federal states, higher education institutions), but at the end of this delegation chain are higher education institutions which not only formulate, but also implement the evaluation policies. Hence, the structure of the delegation chain leaves room for maneuver to higher education institutions which explains the variety of approaches that can be found in internal evaluation of teaching and learning. Unsurprisingly, evaluations are thus largely conditioned by organisational structures, rules and cultures, and the organisation itself is in turn influenced by evaluations (Dahler-Larsen 2015). However, both evaluation research and organisational and administrative research have so far taken too little account of this interrelationship (Hojlund 2014).
In order to investigate this relationship in more detail, the presentation addresses the question of how evaluations are actually used. To give an empirical answer to this question, we draw on empirical findings from a mixed methods study (qualitative expert interview data in combination with data derived from a nationwide survey among QM staff). This reveals very different forms of evaluation purposes and uses, which can in the end be attributed to the fact that internal evaluations were ultimately delegated to the universities by the legislator in carrying them out. This allows the agent to defect, which means that evaluation policies may be formulated as intended but not necessarily implemented as they are formulated. For this reason, despite the similar organisational structures of higher education institutions, very different evaluation rationales, approaches and cultures sometimes emerge, ranging from ritualisation to evidence-based management or institutional research, having correspondingly different instruments in use. The resulting diversity of forms of use draws attention to the generally confused relationship between evaluation and administration (Picciotto 2016).