Wishful Thinking: Lessons from the internal and external evaluations of an innovatory education project in Northern Ireland

Rob Watling, Michael Arlow

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    14 Citations (Scopus)


    From March 1999 to August 2000, the authors were involved in simultaneous internal and external evaluations of the social civic and political education (SCaPE) project in Northern Ireland. This project was a major initiative established by the Citizenship Foundation, the Northern Ireland Council for the Curriculum, Examination and Assessment (CCEA), and the School of Education at the University of Ulster at Coleraine. It was a 2-year project in 25 secondary schools established to design, develop, pilot and evaluate a new programme of social, civic and political education for Northern Ireland. It also aimed to serve as a model for future Citizenship curriculum developments throughout Northern Ireland and elsewhere. This paper describes the background to the project, the design and conduct of the two evaluations, and the links between them. It outlines the main conclusions of each evaluation and describes the way SCaPE has since evolved into a mainstream curriculum development project. The final part of the paper analyses the key opportunities, tensions and challenges involved in running such evaluations at a critical time in the history of Northern Ireland – a time when innovation is both necessary and controversial. It argues that, especially in such circumstances, evaluation cannot be conducted from a neutral, objective standpoint, and that it is incumbent on evaluators to recognise the emotional, personal and political commitment they make to the projects in which they are engaged.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)166-181
    JournalEvaluation and Research in Education
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2002




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