Studies in Learning, Evaluation, Innovation and Development > Vol. 9, No. 1 (2012)

A case study of embedding a culture of self-review and evaluation using evaluative conversations at Otago Polytechnic

Stuart Terry, Otago Polytechnic
Glenice Mayo, Otago Polytechnic


During the last decade, the tertiary education sector in New Zealand moved from compliance driven audits to a model of quality assurance focused on evaluative conversations. In 2011 the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) recognised Otago Polytechnic as a top performing institution by confirming high confidence in educational performance and high confidence in self-assessment capability under the external evaluation and review process for Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs). In this presentation we report on the steps involved, and the cultural shift needed, to embed systematic and robust self-review and evaluation throughout all levels of the organisation using evaluative conversations. We also outline the role of senior management and quality assurance staff in creating the impetus for change. Achieving the shift required a sustained and enhanced focus on evaluative conversations based on the analysis of multiple sources of evidence based data and self-reflection. To strengthen transparency and support that shift we also developed a performance portal where all information relating to schools and service areas was accessible to all staff. A strong focus and commitment from the senior leadership team, who assess their own processes and activities, and active support from staff across the institution were key factors in our ability to successfully embed rigorous self-assessment, evaluation and review processes within the culture of the organisation. We offer insights into our institutional experience and highlight the benefits for all stakeholders.

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