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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


The Learning Capacity of Schools as a Function of Evaluative Inquiry: An Empirical Study

J. Bradley Cousins, Swee C. Goh.

Schools are increasingly engaged in re-engineering their work processes and structures in order to remain effective or to deal with decreasing munificence in their operating environment, such as budget cuts. Due in large part to the need to remain flexible in anticipation of continuous future change, the concept of building a learning organization has been receiving increasing attention by educational administrators and researchers. Recently, considerable interest has been focused on the relationship between evaluative inquiry and organizational learning capacity (OLC). The argument that applied systematic inquiry, when integrated into the culture of a school, can be a powerful means of developing its ability to learn is a compelling one, yet the empirical basis supporting this relationship remains thin.

The overall objective for the research is to clarify empirically the relationship between evaluative inquiry and organizational learning in the context of school improvement. Specifically, we asked: (1) To what extent do such influences represent within- or between-school effects?; and (2) What is the role of mediating factors in explaining the potency of evaluative inquiry in schools? Results from our questionnaire survey of 970 educators in 41 Manitoba secondary and middle schools reveal that 'organizational readiness for evaluation', a dimension of organizational culture, mediates the relationship between evaluative inquiry and schools' learning capacity in significant and interesting ways. We discuss these findings in terms of an agenda for ongoing inquiry and implications for administrative practice.


J. Bradley Cousins  (Canada)
Faculty of Education
University of Ottawa

Professor of Educational Administration. Specializations include knowledge utilization and program evaluation.

Swee C. Goh  (Canada)
School of Management
University of Ottawa

Swee C. Goh is Professor of Organizational Behaviour at the School of Management, University of Ottawa. He has an MBA and PhD from the University of Toronto.

  • Evaluative Inquiry
  • Organizational Learning
  • Evidence-based Decision Making
  • School Administration

(30 min Conference Paper, English)