Improving widening participation evaluation practices
Innovative research on enhancing the quality of evidence in outreach work from the University of Exeter’s Centre for Social Mobility is impacting on universities’ practices in designing and evaluating their work with widening participation students.
This research was commission by the Office for Students with the purpose of enhancing the standards of evaluation in widening participation work. Working with other institutions and third sector charity partners, the work found that a firmer framework for developing and enhancing evaluation practices would be useful.
Through a close collaboration between the Exeter-based researchers and the Office for Students, a developed a Self-Assessment tool for evaluation practices was developed. This tool went out to all English higher education providers as part of their access and participation planning.
“The key,” says Professor Anna Mountford-Zimdars, “is enabling institutions to enhance their own practices through a reflective approach. Used this way, the tool is already helping practitioners to connect different areas of university practice and to mobilise support for prioritising rigorous evaluation as an institutional goal that supports other objectives such as developing reflective thinking about admissions and student support while students are at university.”
In a currently ongoing new commission from the Office for Students, Exeter is leading a consortium of partners to work with 29 Uni Connect partnerships reaching working with over 1,500 schools and reaching close to 200,000 young people in the UK. This strand of work creates resources and tools to enable more robust evaluation and build a community of practice of evaluation practitioners. Leading this work, Professor Mountford-Zimdars said that “Providing a space for discussion and reflection is proving the most valuable contribution for supporting the shared sense of purpose, challenges and opportunities to grow among our Uni Connect partners.”
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