Exploring the shift to an improvement-oriented approach to external evaluation in Aotearoa New Zealand

The case of the Education Review Office





External evaluation in Aotearoa New Zealand is an important accountability mechanism in education. In 2019 the Tomorrow’s Schools Independent Taskforce recommended that the Education Review Office (ERO) develop and implement an improvement-oriented approach to external evaluation in schools. This approach requires fundamental shifts in evaluation practice. In implementing an improvement-oriented approach, while maintaining accountability functions in a public sector context, evaluators need to balance key tensions: relational, epistemological, pedagogical, contextual, political, methodological, and organisational. The role of the evaluator in implementing ERO’s new approach, and managing the shifts required, is key to the approach’s success. Building evaluation capability and capacity and strengthening the evaluation evidence base are critical areas for further development.


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Author Biographies

Ro Parsons, Victoria University of Wellington

Ro Parsons has had a wide-ranging career in education and has held senior leadership roles in the Ministry of Education and Education Review Office. Ro’s academic and research interests are focused on the field of evaluation. Ro’s publications relate to mathematics education, teacher professional learning and development, system change and improvement, and evaluation.

Joanna Higgins, Victoria University of Wellington

Joanna Higgins is an associate professor at the Faculty of Education, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand where she supervises masters and doctoral projects that focus on policy implementation, professional learning and development, leadership, and wellbeing initiatives in schools and universities. Her research from sociocultural perspectives includes instructional reform in mathematics education, professional inquiry of teachers and teacher educators, and analyses of wellbeing policy and practice.


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