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Expanding the Bench™ Week: Thoughts Concerning Technical Contributions of Cultural Responsiveness to Evaluation by Art Hernandez

Good day! I am Art Hernandez, a Professor at the University of the Incarnate Word in Texas. As an evaluator and teacher of evaluation, I am interested in the processes of cultural responsiveness in theory and practice, especially concerning measurement and assessment. Currently, I am a member of the Expanding the Bench™ Advisory Board and a mentor for the Leaders in Equitable Evaluation and Diversity (LEEAD) Program.

Lessons Learned: 

Many of the current exhortations concerning culturally responsive and equitable evaluation (CREE) are couched in or understood from perspectives which appeal to philosophical, social justice, and/or ethical arguments. In truth, CREE goes beyond “political correctness,” “liberal thinking,” or “social engineering.” This is true for at least two reasons. The penultimate purpose for evaluation theory and practice is meaningful identification, description, or demonstration of value. Accuracy alone does not assure validity. Evaluation which is not meaningful to respondents is subject to a significant risk for invalidity. Imposing perspectives that do not reflect those of involved persons risks meaninglessness and validates relationships only for those who impose those perspectives. Philosophical assumptions must be validated by all shareholders. There is no evidentiary basis for any particular philosophical assumption.

Secondly, the complex nature of systems and individuals make it unlikely that any one worldview can accurately encompass the perspectives and bases for individual and group identity. This suggests real methodological problems resulting from inaccurate/incomplete model specification that make any examination of “cause and effect” subject to significant risk of error.  This is partly because individual and social consequence is affected by and produces conditions which prevail and are maintained by points of view. Accurate prediction can then be explained in multiple ways with no connection to reality. CREE is essential to meaningfully (validly) demonstrate value. What we evaluate has value, because it is evaluated and the evaluation can be used to justify arguments of worth – arguments which are based and depend on assumptions for their validity. It is a technical (as well as ethical) imperative to recognize assumptions and to validate those assumptions with all concerned. This is due to the historical evidence that the consequences of failing to do so results in maladaptive and injurious social decision making and the denial of human rights and basic justice to individuals and groups.  

Hot Tip:

Respect for all in pursuit of the good for all should be the grounding for all evaluation work. While this seems intuitive to me, it is not universally understood or accepted. Evaluators should not assume that social justice or CREE practice is understood or appreciated.

Rad Resources: 

This week, we’re diving into issues of Culturally Responsive and Equitable Evaluation (CREE) with contributions from members of the Expanding the Bench Initiative (ETB). ETB is an initiative based on the fundamental belief that increasing diversity in the field of evaluation improves our knowledge base and makes for better science and social innovation. 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.

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