Governments and education policy-makers are increasingly paying attention to the evaluation of students, teachers, school principals, schools and education systems. Conceiving evaluation as a part of pluralism in public policies (Stame, 2016), evaluation is then an important tool to properly understand how students progress along their learning paths, to provide information to families and society about which strategic levers to use in improving the school system, to reflect on teaching practices and modernising schooling organizations.
In this framework, the PON Valu.E (Expert School Evaluation/Self-Evaluation) project, coordinated by INVALSI, has been designed as an ongoing monitoring and evaluation system for Italy’s National Evaluation System (SNV). The objective of the project is to constantly monitor evaluation process interventions, by guaranteeing the quality of innovative educational evaluation as well as by defining the competencies that can support this process ‘in’ and ‘for’ the schools.
Valu.E is aimed at the involvement of all the active players of the school system: from schools themselves, to school principals, teachers and educators, evaluators and researchers, as well as to students and their families. This is because Valu.E aims to delve deeper into the most advanced facets of education and training systems evaluation, through pilot actions, using various supporting tools and by outreaching the evaluation culture through innovative methods.
The PON Valu.E Project is a multi-year project and comprises 3 main actions, namely:
1. Evaluating evaluation
The first of these three actions, developed in the previous three-year period, was made by an evaluation and reflection process aimed at improving the tools, protocols and procedures used within the school evaluation framework as outlined in the National Evaluation System. Action 1 highlighted the extent to which evaluation training enables all stakeholders to change their perceptions of these processes and intensify their use of evaluation outcomes.
2. Supporting self-evaluation in schools
Based on these considerations, Action 2 was launched to test the effectiveness of innovative models insofar as supporting and updating school self-evaluation activities and the related professional and ethical skills required of the school staff involved in these activities. The core of the research activities included in this research/action track is based on establishing and structuring networks between the different players who focus mainly on evaluating quality of the education system. The training and support actions that are currently being tested are presented in the portal’s Valu.E for Schools section. Their purpose is to improve the ability of school staff to intervene in evaluation and self-evaluation processes through training activities specifically designed by a set of specialised operators selected through a public procedure and then supervised by the research team.
3. Outlining the expertise of the evaluator
Finally, Action 3 involves the implementation of an e-learning environment dedicated to teachers, school principals and anyone interested in school evaluation processes, while providing them with the knowledge and methodological tools necessary to assess the quality of the school’s educational and organisational processes (Valu.Elearn). A technical and scientific committee coordinated by INVALSI monitors the scientific and specialised content proposed to the participants.
The PON Valu.E Project has been selected to actively participate in the work of some of the most prestigious international and national research associations on school effectiveness and evaluation, including the ICSEI (International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement), the SICI (Standing International Conference of Inspectorates), the ISA (International Sociological Association), the ESA (European Sociological Association), the AIV (Italian Evaluation Society), the AIS (Italian Sociological Association, for the educational and methodological sections) and the “Per la Scuola Democratica – Learning for democracy” Association. The researchers, associates and experts of the PON Valu.E Project regularly publish in or act as referees for important scientific journals in the field of education policy studies, including the European Journal of Education, the Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, Form@re (Open Journal for network training), Scuola Democratica, the Rassegna Italiana di Valutazione [Italian Evaluation Digest], Autonomie Locali e Servizi Sociali [Local Powers and Social Services magazine], the Italian Journal of Sociology of Education and the Rivista dell’Istruzione [Education Magazine].
The PON Valu.E project is co-ordinated by INVALSI within the framework of the National Operational Programme (PON) of the Ministry of Education, University and Research, entitled “Per la Scuola – competenze e ambienti per l’apprendimento” [For schools – skills and environments for learning], financed by European Structural Funds.