BECOME Week: Lessons Learned in applying Culturally Responsive Evaluation in Building Computational Thinking by Mila Kachovska

Hi, I’m Mila Kachovska, a Fellow of Become. I often ask myself and our partners, “How does culture influence us?” Culture shapes our thoughts and perceptions in all areas of life, from interactions with friends and family, to conducting work, to how language is used, to how problems are solved, and challenges faced.

Culturally Responsive Evaluations and Assessment (CREA) and its efforts to improve outcomes of practices recognizes that we must learn to appreciate cultural context. We tend to be unaware of our own biases, placing cultural stereotypes on others. The ability to distinguish and work with diverse stakeholders and audiences is critical in understanding cultural and contextual dimensions well.

Over the past two years, ACTMA project (Assessing Computational Thinking in Maker Activities) has been deliberately growing their cultural responsiveness in their research in formal and informal physics environments. It has been imperative for the research team to draw upon culturally responsive practices to evaluate judgments grounded in culture within the project’s stakeholders and participants.

During pilot studies using maker spaces to enhance computational thinking, underrepresented students’ cultural and linguistics practices were seen as assets to the work rather than barriers to the learning process. ACTMA’s team foregrounded students’ cultural practices as a main objective to honor and explore students’ backgrounds and how they can strengthen the learning process. In doing this, students who were uncomfortable with science and technology saw themselves in the work and opened their eyes to new career possibilities. Drawing upon the findings of the pilot studies, the research team carried out analysis of data sets and artifacts of students showing their sense of expertise and ownership.

Why did we develop a culturally responsive practice? It was imperative for us to understand the audience, stakeholders, and ourselves. The evaluation process drew upon ethical implications and examined and validated personal and cultural perspectives. Taking a culturally responsive approach allowed the team to incorporate multiple voices by making sure the work is emitted in an honest and respectful way with everyone involved.

Hot Tip: Keep returning to the AEA Public Statement on Cultural Competence in Evaluation and establish regular check-points in your work routine to practice the five essentials listed for culturally competent evaluators:

  1. Acknowledge the complexity of cultural identity. Recognize, respond to, and work to reconcile differences between and within cultures and subcultures.
  2. Recognize the dynamics of power. Work to avoid reinforcing cultural stereotypes and prejudice in work.
  1. Recognize and eliminate bias in social relations. Be thoughtful in language use and other social relations to reduce bias when conducting evaluations.
  2. Employ culturally congruent epistemologies, theories, and methods. Seek to understand how the constructs are defined by cultures and are aware of the many ways epistemologies and theories can be utilized, how data can be collected, analyzed and interpreted, and the diversity of context in which findings can be disseminated.
  3. Continue self-assessment. Regularly monitor the extent of serving as an open, responsive instrument given relevant attributes of an evaluation context.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Become: Community Engagement and Social Change week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from authors associated with Become. 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 aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.




1 thought on “BECOME Week: Lessons Learned in applying Culturally Responsive Evaluation in Building Computational Thinking by Mila Kachovska”

  1. Hi Mila,
    Thank you for sharing your experiences with culturally responsive practices. I’m curious to know whether students working in the maker spaces were collaborating with others from the same background, or from different backgrounds, and how that affected their learning.
    Reflecting upon the AEA Public Statement on Cultural Competence in Evaluation I noticed many similarities between program evaluation and the delivery of professional development. In The Reflective Educator’s Guide to Professional Development by Nancy Fichtman Dana and Diane Yendol-Hoppey, the authors focus on ten essential elements for professional learning communities. Some of these apply well to what I have learned about culturally responsive program evaluation, namely:
    Building trust among group members (or stakeholders), to show their needs are being heard and valued.
    Pay attention to how power can influence the dynamics of a group, to ensure that evaluation is never used to marginalize a group or subset of a group.
    Embrace collaboration,
    Appreciate diversity, and
    Explore different types of data, to gain valuable insights into the program’s participants and stakeholders needs.
    Upon reading your article, I examined the AEA Public Statement on Cultural Competence in Evaluation further and am heartened that such a document exists. As Reconciliation in Canada gains more attention I am sure this document will continue to guide program evaluators towards using their power to make a positive impact on marginalized populations.

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