Connecting the Intra/Inter/Structural Week: Using Our Evaluator Competencies to Live-Into Socially Just Evaluation Praxis: Activating Self-in-Context at Multiple Levels–Intrapersonal * Interpersonal * Systemic by Hazel Symonette

Hazel Symonette
Hazel Symonette

Greetings! I am Hazel Symonette. I have been an active member of the AEA community since 1993 serving, for example, on the Board; Co-Chair of the AEA Building Diversity Initiative and Co-Chair, the Multi-Ethnic Issues TIG; AEA Representative to the Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation and now,  At-Large Member; Task Force Member for the 2011 Review of the Guiding Principles and for creating  the 2018 Evaluator Competencies.  At the University of Wisconsin, I am a Program Development and Assessment Specialist Emerita and currently serving as Evaluation Facilitator and Researcher with the Wisconsin Center for Education Research. I also serve as Social Justice Educator with the UW First Wave Hip Hop & Urban Arts Program. 

Our times have unequivocally laid bare the stark realities of systemic inequities and institutionalized patterns of power, privilege and oppression.  Mindfully attending to these realities as the living landscape for our work is not optional. No bystander-neutral place exists given such impactful realities.  

As professional evaluators, our role embodies a sacred trust because we are “privileged authorities” whose work can have life-changing impacts on the lives and life chances of individuals, groups, communities and potentially, the world.  In Privilege, Power and Difference, Johnson notes: 

Privilege grants the cultural authority to make judgments about others and to have those judgments stick. It allows people to define reality and to have prevailing definitions of reality fit their experience.  Privilege means being able to decide who gets taken seriously, who receives attention, who is accountable to whom and for what.

In these challenging times, we are being summoned to proactively Live-Into the ethical and inclusive excellence imperatives of our profession—especially given our ethical Guiding Principles D & E which are spotlighted and further magnified in our Evaluator Competencies.

Culture, Context and Social Justice-related considerations and expectations are engaged throughout the five competency domains.  They are magnified and elaborated in Context Domain 3 and Interpersonal Domain 5 and then interwoven within Professional Practice Domain 1. These three domains serve as key differentiators of professional evaluation from research.

Let us proactively discern and activate our Agency and Efficacy—within our specific Evaluation Context—its specifications * conditions * contingencies–in order to maximize our capacities to Walk-the-Talk of both our longstanding Guiding Principles and our Evaluator Competencies.  This requires that we inform and then dynamically assess and evaluate our work processes, protocols, practices and products with a contextually Responsive AND Responsible LENS via the engagement of multiple diverse voices, views, and vantage points.  Most importantly, we emphatically scrutinize our work to determine the actual interpersonal and contextual patterns and levels of congruence regarding In Whose Name our work is showing up versus In Whose Best Interests.  Bottomline, how do we discern the resulting messaging regarding Who and What matters and belongs—evidential cues, clues and signposts?

How do we *KNOW* that the above Self-in-Context Evaluative Assessments are accurate and valid based upon what and whose Evidentiary Criteria?  I encourage us to apply Karen Kirkhart‘s Multicultural Validity Justifications augmented by my Interpersonal Validity elaboration:

Relational * Theoretical * Methodological * Experiential * Consequential Validity Justifications

  • Interpersonal Validity as the Heartbeat of All Validity Justifications

These evolving/emergent imperatives undergird and fuel the ongoing capacity-building work that I have been immersed in doing:  most notably, the October 2020 Culturally/Contextually-Responsive Equity-enabling Evaluation (CREE) workshop followed by an ongoing monthly CREE Community of Praxis with professional PreK-12 and  Postsecondary unit evaluators and the Evaluation Clinic Lead Fellows (advanced Masters & Ph.D. students) within the University of Wisconsin Center for Education Research.

Rad Resources: 

The American Evaluation Association is hosting Connecting the Intra/Inter/Structural Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from authors who are exploring intuition and the thread that connects the intrapersonal, interpersonal, and the structural in evaluation.

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@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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