Elliot Eisner ~ in memoriam

Elliot Eisner brought the concepts of connoisseurship and criticism from the world of art to enable new ways of thinking about educational evaluation. He died at home on January 10, 2014 and the field of evaluation has lost an important founding thinker.

In 1976, Eisner made an observation that is as true today as it was then,

First, the forms of evaluation that are now employed to assess the effectiveness of school programs have profound consequences upon the character of teaching, the content of curriculum, and the kinds of goals that schools seek to attain. Evaluation procedures, more than a reasoned philosophy of education, influence the educational priorities at work within the schools. Second, these evaluation procedures rest upon largely unexamined assumptions that are basically scientific in their epistemology, technological in their application, and have consequences that are often limited and at times inhospitable to the kinds of goals the arts can achieve.

He went on to describe how connoisseurship and criticism, concepts from the arts through which he conceptualized the artistry of teaching and schooling as a cultural artifact both of which required appreciation (through connoisseurship) and critique (through articulation of the ineffable qualities of teaching, learning and schools).

Eisner’s The Educational Imagination: On the Design and Evaluation of School Programs is a classic.

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