Re: National benchmarks for measuring and evaluating progress

Dear Colleagues,

I would like to take this opportunity to share some thoughts on the topic
of measurement and evaluation of HRE at primary and secondary schools. As
a starting point for my thoughts, I would like to refer to the "Report of
Workshop on HRE issues in Human Rights NGOs (available on the HREA
listserv archive, Mon, 22 Jul 2002)". In the section on "HRE in the Formal
School Education System" the idea of pre- and posttest results of student
attitudes and behaviours is presented as a focus for evaluation. While
this approach is important, there are a number of challenges that present
themselves in terms of implementation. For example: What attitudes and
behaviours (and skills) should be focused on? What specific criteria
should these pre- and posttests measure? What scales are best for
measuring changes in attitudes, behaviours and skills? How will these
assessments be constructed and validated?

Instead of offering possible answers to these questions, I would like to
present a possible approach to answering these questions: create a
continuing dialogue between HRE practitioners and researchers. One way of
viewing this collaboration would be Donald Schön's idea that practitioners
"give their practical problems to the university, and the university, the
unique source of research, is to give back to the professions the new
scientific knowledge which it will be their business to apply and test."
This may seem somewhat divisive, drawing a strong distinction between the
two groups, but I interpret it as an illustration of the strengths of
both. Each has a role to play in measurement and evaluation, where the
practitioners typically have extensive field experience, while the
researchers typically have extensive academic experience. The contribution
and involvement of researchers may help shed some light on the questions
raised above, and provide some direction to move in regarding evaluation
in the field of HRE.

That being said, I also believe that good evaluation work can be
undertaken without extensive research experience. The most important point
in terms of evaluation in the field of HRE is to simply document the
processes and outcomes of initiatives. While pre- and posttests may be
seen as a traditional approach to evaluation, there are many other
alternative and interesting approaches to draw from: teacher/student
journals, photography, poetry, narratives, collage, song-writing and
theatre, to name a few. These are all ways to collect valuable data that
can be used as evidence for changes in attitudes, behaviours, and skills.
I have learned that the creativity and passion of the HRE community is
boundless, and trust that innovative ways of influencing the area of
evaluation can develop out of our efforts. Of course, it is imperative to
share all evaluation results with the HRE community is essential in moving
the evaluation agenda forward.

Key to any discussion about evaluation is the concept of follow-up. The
context of primary and secondary schools is excellent in allowing
long-term follow-up with individuals. It is in this way that: 1)
individuals are given enough time to show changes, and 2) any
developmental paths can be demonstrated and described. Following students
in HRE curricula over a period of 5 years can provide interesting
information about changes in attitudes, behaviours, and skills. For
example, it may be possible over time to see an increasing sophistication
in terms of students' critical thinking and reasoning when faced with
various human rights situations. Following teachers who have gone through
HRE training over a period of time can also provide information useful in
refining future teacher training sessions.

In order have deeper discussions on the topic of measurement and
evaluation of HRE at the primary and secondary schools, I suggest two
ideas for the World Programme. The first suggestion would be the formal
establishment of long-term partnerships between practitioners and
researchers in the field of HRE. For example, partnerships between NGOs
and universities can result in a combination of knowledge and experience
that can help: 1) establish targeted indicators for use in measurement and
evaluation, and 2) improve the design and development of HRE programming.
An initiative to identify academic organizations (or individuals, such as
professors and/or graduate students) that are interested in working on
this topic can be undertaken. A similar initiative can be carried out with
interested local/regional NGOs and/or CBOs. Networking among these
organizations and individuals can result in many benefits for the HRE

The second idea would be the establishment of a virtual research and
evaluation repository, with different foci on educational policies,
curriculum, textbooks, learning materials, teacher training,
extracurricular activities, and the learning environment in schools. This
repository would be: 1) a hub for the collection and dissemination of
various evaluation processes taking place around the world, as well as 2)
an informational resource for practitioners and researchers who are
interested in exchanging ideas. With the current state of ICTs, it would
be relatively simple to create a space for individuals and organizations
to create a learning community centred on HRE research and evaluation. If
a culture of "learning as a collective effort" and knowledge-sharing is
fostered, such a community would be able to make great contributions to
evaluation in the field of HRE.

I would be extremely interested in hearing from colleagues about these two
suggestions, as well as any others, in regards to evaluation. I believe
that the field of HRE deserves our full attention on this important topic,
and I know that this community has the motivation and commitment to make
future dialogues lively, interesting, creative and valuable.

Kevin Chin
Educational Psychology, Ph.D. student
McGill University, Montreal, Quebec

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