David M. Fetterman
Director of the M.A. Policy Analysis and Evaluation Program, School of Education
I have become passionate about the power of technology to help transcend traditional boundaries of time and space in the classroom. As a tool, technology can enhance the quality of education. I also believe that it is incumbent upon educators to make educational technology accessible to students. A few years ago it became clear to me that being able to work comfortably in this area adds extraordinary luster to a student's resume and is another critical skill desired by employers.
Such a belief became one of the bases to create the Policy Analysis and Evaluation Program six years ago.
From day one I encourage my students to immerse themselves not only in the current policy issues such as Ebonics, national standards, systemic reform and educational technology but also in the technology that will enable them to understand these and other educational policies in a more efficient way.
I ask my students to conceptualize the program as a three-level chess game. The first level focuses on content, such as policy analysis and evaluation matters. The second level is technology, and the third level is jobs.
The School of Education's M.A. Policy Analysis and Evaluation Program is designed to produce
literate consumers of educational policy and evaluation material. As policy analysts they learn about the pros and cons of specific policies, and as evaluators they learn how to determine the quality, value and cost-benefit of these policies and programs, provide a measure of accountability and accumulate knowledge about public policies over time.
During their tenure in the program the students conduct evaluations of, among others, the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Pediatrics Curriculum, the San Francisco Peer Resources Program, the Stanford Teacher Education Program and the Stanford Women's Center. This hands-on approach helps them internalize basic evaluation practices and principles. We bring evaluation clients into the classroom to discuss their needs and interests, the feasibility of a given design, ethical considerations, and reporting and dissemination practices. The classroom becomes a living laboratory in which to explore educational policy and put evaluation theories and techniques into practice.
Technology is an important resource for any student but it is not valuable in a vacuum. Teaching about educational technology within the context of a discipline is sound pedagogy. In our program it is an indispensable tool to achieve our outcome and underlies much of what we do.
We begin by mastering the basics of e-mail, listservs and surfing the net. E-mail enables us to communicate outside the classroom during virtual office hours and links us to colleagues and resources outside the school and the university. Listservs or classroom distribution lists are another venue for meaningful dialogue outside the classroom. We share conversation, notices about schedule changes and employment opportunities. Surfing the Internet is a qualitative leap beyond e-mail and listservs. The information available is enormous. We learn first how to find the most useful sites, then assess the quality of what we've found, and finally learn what to do with the information. Each student thus begins a transition from being a consumer to a creator of knowledge.
They also learn to create their own home pages to post what they have learned and created on the web. It is a metaphor for the transformation we make in the program from learning about policy and evaluation to shaping policy and conducting evaluations. To top it all, we have our own virtual classroom on the Internet where students post their assignments and allow peers to post their thoughts about each other's work.
The third level of the chess game, jobs, is complete by the end of the year, when policy analysts and evaluators visit the class to share their work. During this period, students participate in discussions of relevant topics and concerns, share e-mail addresses and databases with our guest speakers, and secure interviews and employment. E-mail is also an instrumental link to prospective employers.
A recent e-mail from a current student confirms the power of these tools in the transition from school to work: "I now work part-time for WestEd. They asked me, 'Do you do home pages?'
We pulled mine up and they hired me on the spot. You're right!"