Evaluation Research is a mandatory course for the second year students at the Department of Education (Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences). It was introduced into the study programme beginning the academic year 2007/2008 with the idea to be organised and implemented as a community-based participatory research course, following basic principles of service-learning pedagogy.
Each academic year there is an agreement signed with certain community organisation or more of them (e.g. NGOs, schools, kindergartens, museums), whose project(s) is/are then evaluated over the next three months (one semester) of the course length. Course combines theoretical background with extensive field work. Every step of the course is both planned and delivered in close collaboration with partners from the community and therefore tailored to meet their particular needs.
Students are organised in small research teams, focused on various aspects of the planned participatory evaluation research. Both partners (as mentors) and students work together on setting the research agenda, research questions, proper research methods, instruments, data collection, analysis (SPSS for quantitative and MAXQDA or Dedoose for qualitative research) and public presentation of the research results. Usually both quantitative and qualitative approaches are used, for students to get better acquainted with multi-methods approaches and their importance in evaluation research. Since 2007/2008 we have collaborated with more than 30 different community organisations who have benefited a lot from such community-based participatory research engagement, and we have tackled various community issues through such collaborations (e.g. homelessness, mental health, LGBT rights, women rights, school bullying, volunteering, activism, environmental issues, gender inequalities etc.). Both students’ and collaborators’ feedback point to mutual satisfaction and benefits – students usually point they have learnt much more by doing than just by ‘listening’, while our partners regularly use research results to inform the development of their own future practices, policies, and actually any kind of decisions.
This course is taking place every academic year and therefore each year there are different collaborators/partners, different number of students as well as of final beneficiaries.