Hello! We are Olivia Halls, Shanice Bennerson, and Shanesha Brooks-Tatum representing Creative Research Solutions, an evaluation firm in metro Atlanta, and the Atlanta-Area Evaluation Association. Reflecting upon our projects related to secondary and post-secondary education, a common thread is apparent: approaching evaluations holistically plays a critical role in supporting academic success for marginalized groups.
Various factors impact learners inside and outside of the classroom. Learners stand to benefit when their social, cultural, and economic contexts are emphasized in evaluations of educational programs. While this evaluation approach is not novel, it is valuable to highlight this approach to continue promoting evaluation that bolsters academic success.
Lessons Learned: Consider the Learner’s Context. In our work with clients with programs or initiatives that specifically focus on improving academic success and career opportunities among people of color, we found the following factors to be considerably influential:
- Sense of belonging as it relates to race and gender in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education.
- The availability of quality instruction around social-emotional learning.
- Robust collaboration between employers and colleges to construct clearer pathways to employment.
- Combining the strengths of communities, learners, traditional and non-traditional actors to support academic success.
Evaluations that promote implementation fidelity and sustainability of programs that utilize holistic approaches would be instrumental in propelling the success of people of color during their educational careers and beyond.
Leverage All Your Connections. Seek out spaces where traditional education providers frequent, specifically local colleges and universities or school districts. Consider attending events held by special interest groups to meet potential clients, like The Partnership for Southern Equity. Another budget-friendly option may be virtual communities of practice such as LinkedIn. Relationships developed with members of virtual groups can lead to future work. Many groups share RFPs or other opportunities that you may have missed in a traditional search.
Photo credit: Christina Morillo
Take an Inventory of Your Skills. Consider the breadth of factors that contribute to the educational success of learners, like public health. It is critical to take an inventory of your skillset and make connections with education if the subject matter you are an expert in is outside education. The connections you make can allow for a more holistic approach to supporting the academic success of historically marginalized groups.
Support the Work Making Positive Change. Our clients often face seemingly insurmountable challenges that leave them feeling pessimistic, such as limited resources for their students or evaluations that center academic deficits. It is critical to help clients determine which solutions are actionable with their available resources, especially for smaller organizations. Honest, actionable feedback will support clients’ goals without minimizing the reality of their experiences.
How to Center Learners
We have learned that it is critical to:
- Keep learners’ sociocultural experience at the center of evaluations
- Establish healthy working relationships with clients and partners
- Make connections between your skillset and educational outcomes
- Prioritize actionable recommendations that support the work of your clients
The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Atlanta-area Evaluation Association (AaEA) Affiliate Week with our colleagues in the AaEA Affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from AaEA Affiliate members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.