Cultural Competence Week: Tamara Bertrand Jones on Essential Tools for Training Culturally Responsive Evaluators

I’m Tamara Bertrand Jones, an Assistant Professor of Higher Education at Florida State University, and on the Training Committee of the AEA Public Statement on Cultural Competence in Evaluation Dissemination Working Group. We are working on disseminating some critical lessons, such as the following.

Emphasis on developing not only evaluation competency, but the skills to navigate various cultural settings ensures the improved quality of evaluation and evaluation professionals.  I suggest that formal instruction or training in culturally responsive evaluation include knowledge or skills in three areas, including knowledge of 1) self, 2) technical skill, and 3) cultural context.

Lesson Learned: Evaluator Knowledge of Self – refers to the evaluator’s understanding and acknowledgement of their lived experiences that shape their values and perspectives that might influence an evaluation.  It is necessary for an evaluator to know how their life experiences, biases, values, and habits may influence their perceptions in the evaluation setting. An example might include use of language.  I was taught to use ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ when I refer to others, especially my elders. I attribute this to my southern upbringing.  However, I have found that not every person responds positively to being called ma’am or sir.  While I see this as a sign of respect, others may view this as unconscious ageism.

Hot Tip: Training Tip – In training others, it’s necessary that educators and trainers incorporate self-exploration activities that foster self-awareness.

Rad Resource: Hazel Symonette’s chapter on cultivating self as responsive instrument for excellent evaluation in the Handbook of social research ethics.

Lesson Learned: Evaluation Knowledge and Technical Skills – refers to evaluation specific skills, fundamentals and methods, including culturally responsive research methods.  In other words, “Culturally responsive evaluation is just good evaluation!”

Hot Tip: Training Tip – Expand methodological discussions beyond the qualitative and quantitative debate.  Emphasize how the evaluation questions, along with consideration of the evaluation context, drive methodological choices.

Rad Resource:  Henry Frierson, Stafford Hood, & Gerunda Hughes’s chapter on culturally responsive evaluation in The 2002 User-Friendly Handbook for Project Evaluation.

Lesson Learned: Knowledge of Cultural Context – refers to understanding of the different layers of context that affect diverse groups. These skills are usually taught in cultural awareness or diversity training or education. However, no simulated training can replicate the understanding that comes from genuine interaction with others.

Hot Tip: Training Tip – Develop multicultural evaluation teams. Often individuals not experienced in a particular culture miss nuances that can be perceived by cultural natives, and vice versa. Some cultural natives may overlook valuable information because the information is foundational to their membership in that culture.

Rad Resource: Stafford Hood, Rodney Hopson, & Henry Frierson’s book The role of culture and cultural context: A mandate for inclusion, the discovery of truth, and understanding in evaluative theory and practice.

This week, we’re diving into issues of Cultural Competence in Evaluation with AEA’s Statement on Cultural Competence in Evaluation Dissemination Working Group. 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 “Cultural Competence Week: Tamara Bertrand Jones on Essential Tools for Training Culturally Responsive Evaluators”

  1. Corinne Whitney

    Good Afternoon Sheila:

    Thank you for sharing your post – Cultural Competence Week: Tamara Bertrand Jones on Essential Tools for Training Culturally Responsive Evaluators. Initially when I read the title, I thought only of evaluators being sensitive to the cultural lens that stakeholders might bring to the evaluative process. The article does in fact mention the importance of “understanding the different layers of context that impact diverse groups” (2010). Context is something that I am keenly aware of when we conduct college evaluative processes such as the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) survey or the International Student Barometer (ISB). I find myself worrying that these “check the box” type surveys are not the best evaluative practice for a culturally diverse audience and yet, the results have such importance in the international college community. However, it was a great reminder (to me) that evaluators need also to take into account their own values and perceptions and how this might impact an evaluation. Awareness is key, not just for the stakeholders, but also for oneself!

    Corinne Whitney

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