As New Zealand’s external education evaluation agency, ERO complements the internal evaluation activities of early childhood services.
ERO’s external evaluation process is both proportional and responsive to the service’s internal evaluation. It responds to the early childhood service’s overall capacity and capability to evaluate its own performance. ERO’s external evaluation also has a role to play in building the evaluation capacity of the service by strengthening internal evaluation according to each service’s context.
Diagram 1: Complementary evaluation
External evaluation can:
Internal evaluation can:
ERO uses its external evaluation process to increase the capability within home-based education and care services to undertake internal evaluation as a routine activity for both accountability and improvement purposes. The intention is for evaluation to become embedded in the day-to-day practice of managers and educators.
ERO builds the evaluation capability of the early childhood service through:
The term internal evaluation is often used synonymously with other terms such as self evaluation, self review, evaluation, assessment, monitoring and appraisal. In early childhood services in Aotearoa New Zealand internal evaluation has its roots in terms such as programme review, internal review and quality review.
ERO defines internal evaluation as the use of robust processes to systematically inquire into and evaluate the effectiveness of policies, programmes and practices. Internal evaluation findings are used to inform decision-making, improve the quality of practice and promote positive outcomes for all children.
Definitions of evaluation vary according to the underpinning theory or theories that they are based on. All evaluation involves reaching judgements or producing knowledge about what is being evaluated. The purpose of each evaluation differs: it can be for accountability purposes, to help with decision making, to contribute to improved effectiveness, to increase understanding or to advance a principle such as equity. This is referred to as evaluation use.
Early childhood services are required to undertake internal evaluation as part of their licensing requirements. The criteria to assess the governance, management and administration standard specifies that an ongoing process of internal evaluation helps the service maintain and improve the quality of its education and care. 1
The licensing criteria require early childhood services to document:
Internal evaluation is an integral part of professional practice in the governance, management and administration of a home-based service.
The Ministry of Education resources such as Quality in Action: Te Mahi Whai Hua 2 and The Quality Journey: He Haerenga Whai Hua: Improving quality in early childhood services 3 help early childhood services understand the concept of internal evaluation.
The Ministry has also published guidelines for internal evaluation in early childhood services: Nga Arohaehae Whai Hua. 4 These guidelines set out a process for services to use to undertake internal evaluation. This process is one that requires a systematic process of preparation, data gathering, analysis and decision-making. It implies an evaluative approach.
In 2008 ERO undertook a national evaluation 5 that focused on how well internal evaluation was understood, supported and implemented in early childhood services. ERO found that where internal evaluation was highly effective:
The factors that emerged as common to all services where internal evaluation was well understood and implemented included:
Internal evaluation processes let an early childhood service know how well it is promoting positive learning outcomes for children. As a result of information from internal evaluation, the service is able to identify the contributing factors and priorities to enhance children’s wellbeing and learning.
There are different ways of describing the various types of internal evaluation. The Ministry of Education’s guidelines refer to a framework of planned and spontaneous review. The following diagram expands on that framework for internal evaluation by including strategic internal evaluation. Strategic internal evaluation is the process by which the home-based service evaluates how well it is achieving its vision, goals or philosophy.
Diagram 2: Types of internal evaluation
Strategic internal evaluation is long term, and focused on key goals related to the early childhood service’s vision, goals or philosophy.
Regular (or planned) internal evaluations are about ‘business as usual’. They are smaller, focused and ongoing, feeding regular information into the strategic internal evaluation.
Emergent (or spontaneous) internal evaluations are in response to unplanned events or issues as they arise. They are one-off spontaneous reviews but should fit with overall goals and link to other reviews.
All internal evaluation involves gathering information which is used as evidence to support judgements and make decisions about service direction and priorities.
Diagram 3: Internal evaluation continuum