First Approaches: Expertise and Consumer-Oriented Approaches 137

First Approaches: Expertise and Consumer-Oriented Approaches 137

First Approaches: Expertise and Consumer-Oriented Approaches 137
First Approaches: Expertise and Consumer-Oriented Approaches 137

accreditation), site visits by a team of external experts, and the districts’ status being affected by the results (

Informal Review Systems

Many professional review systems have a structure and a set of procedural guide- lines, and use multiple reviewers. Yet some lack the published standards or speci- fied review schedule of a formal review system.

A graduate student’s supervisory committee for dissertations, theses, or capstone projects is typically composed of experts in the student’s chosen field and is an example of an informal system within expertise-oriented evaluation. Struc- tures within the university, and/or faculty policies, exist for regulating such professional reviews of competence, but the committee members typically deter- mine the standards for judging each student’s performance. Fitzpatrick and Miller- Stevens (2009) have described the development and use of a rubric to assess students’ performance on capstone projects to complete a master’s program in pub- lic administration. But, typically, such criteria do not exist. Instead, the multiple experts on the committee make judgments of the student’s performance, often without discussing their criteria explicitly. And, of course, the status of students is affected by the results.

The systems established for peer reviews of manuscripts submitted to pro- fessional periodicals might also be considered examples of informal review systems, though journals’ procedures vary. Many journals do use multiple reviewers chosen for their expertise in the content of the manuscript. Unlike site visit teams for accreditation or members of a dissertation committee, reviewers do not behave as a team, discussing their reviews and attempting to reach consensus. Instead, a structure exists in the form of an editor or associate editor who selects reviewers, provides a timeframe for their reviews, and makes a final judgment about the manuscript based on the individual reviewers’ comments. However, the schedule, like that for a graduate student’s defense of a dissertation or thesis, is based on the receipt of manuscripts, although reviewers are given a specified time period in which to conduct the review. Many journals, but not all, provide reviewers with some general standards. Of course, the status of the manuscript—whether it is published, revised, or rejected—is affected by the review process.

Ad Hoc Panel Reviews

Unlike the ongoing formal and informal review systems discussed previously, many professional reviews by expert panels occur only at irregular intervals when circumstances demand. Generally, these reviews are related to no institutionalized structure for evaluation and use no predetermined standards. Such professional reviews are usually one-shot evaluations prompted by a particular, time-bound need for evaluative information. Of course, a particular agency may, over time, commission many ad hoc panel reviews to perform similar functions without their collectively being viewed as an institutionalized review system.

138 Part II • Alternative Approaches to Program Evaluation

Panels to Develop Standards. Common examples of ad hoc review panels include panels organized in each state in the United States to develop or revise educational standards for a state or school district, funding agencies to judge pro- posals and make recommendations for funding, and blue-ribbon panels appointed to address particular issues. These ad hoc panel reviews have no rou- tine schedule, but are organized by an agency or organization to receive input from experts on a particular issue. Thus, each of the 50 states has established standards that reflect that state’s expectations regarding what students will know in different subjects at different grades.4 There is considerable variation across the states in their standards, but the standards for each state were originally devel- oped by a panel of experts. These experts typically consist of teachers, educa- tional administrators, policymakers, and experts in the content area. The composition of the committee is intended to include experts with knowledge of the subject matter for which standards are being set and knowledge of the target population. Some sophisticated methods have been developed for the related task of expert committees identifying the cut scores, or scores that divide various test takers into groups based on their performance (Kane, 1995). (See Girard & Impara [2005] for a case study of the cut setting process by an expert panel in a public school district.)

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