Independent study

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Analyze the following evaluation situation by identifying
the problem and suggesting alternative procedures.
A supervisor of instruction wanted to conduct an evaluation in order to compare a new independent study
approach with the regular instructional approach in high
school mathematics. A written formal agreement with the
district evaluation staff stated the following arrangements:
a. The evaluation was to help the high school mathematics department chairpersons decide whether to adopt
the independent study approach districtwide.
b. The procedures were to conduct a districtwide comparison of the two approaches, involving 20 percent
of the high school’s mathematics teachers and all of
their students.
c. Mathematics achievement, students’ attitude, and
teacher enthusiasm would be assessed.
d. Teachers would be randomly selected and assigned to
the two different approaches.
The supervisor later decided that the evaluation should
provide feedback to improve the new approach rather than to
decide on adoption. She changed the procedure for assigning
teachers and students to the project, which resulted in their not
being assigned randomly. The evaluation staff—assuming that
the evaluation focus and design, once agreed on, would remain
the same—collected and analyzed data as originally planned.
The evaluators found that students’ attitudes toward
both approaches were similar but that student achievement
and teacher enthusiasm were significantly greater for the
independent study approach. The report judged this
approach as superior and recommended it for adoption.
The supervisor was disappointed that the report did not
help improve the independent study approach. The department chairpersons complained that the findings were not
dependable for two reasons: (1) Many of the teachers
assigned to the independent study approach were biased in
favor of it before the study began, and (2) the students in the
independent study classes were generally high achievers prior
to entering the program.

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