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IPE TIG Week: Navigating Life Stage Reflections: Uncovering Multicultural Insights and Values by Shelbi Nahwilet Meissner

Hello, AEA365 community! It’s Shelbi from EvaluACT. Recently, we drew upon Kim Anderson’s life stage teachings to develop an innovative reflection tool, seeking to unearth how various cultural lenses influence understandings of life stages and their ramifications on values and practices in professional settings. Participants from Indigenous and non-Indigenous backgrounds engaged, revealing interesting nuances.

Activity Overview:

We selected the MURAL application to serve as our design platform due to its versatility in creating interactive visualizations, enabling participants to engage in a dynamic and immersive environment. We developed a vibrant, interactive timeline that served both as a chronological guide and as a space for participants to visually articulate their life journeys. Participants were provided with virtual post-it notes, serving as qualitative data collection tools. These notes allowed participants to denote their current life stage, ensuring that responses were organic and free-formed. To elicit richer data, we presented two prompts:

  1. What values and responsibilities are integral to your current life stage?
  2. How do these insights currently manifest in your role in the workplace?
Core Value Revelations:

The responses were a post-it mosaic of values and perspectives. Many participants reflected on “cultivating spiritual connection” at all life stages. The value of “embrace kinship and community” also appeared several times. Another dominant theme was the embrace of mortality, emphasizing the importance of reflection on life’s finitude as a catalyst for personal growth. There was a marked dichotomy between the values and life stages identified among Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants. Indigenous participants often interwove values such as “respecting all life” and “transmitting values to the next generation” into their professional roles, and made it clear that their sense of responsibility extended beyond their workplace into their homes and communities. This holistic view encapsulated the idea of sharing interconnectedness and knowledge across personal and professional caretaking spheres, but also shed light on the heavy loads being carried by Indigenous participants in their work and home lives. On the flip side, non-Indigenous participants displayed a more compartmentalized approach, often anchoring their reflections solely within the professional domain, citing life stages like “retirement.”

Hot Tip: Diverse Interpretations of Life Stages

Life stages are perceived differently across various cultural contexts. As gleaned from the reflections, while one community might regard certain stages as periods of reflection and spirituality, another might focus on learning or professional development. This insight was particularly resonant with values such as “navigate life stages with purpose” or “shape purpose through reflection.” Understanding these nuances is imperative for a holistic evaluation.

Hot Tip: Embrace the Emotional Landscape

Life stage introspection is intimate and can evoke a spectrum of emotions. As facilitators, it’s pivotal to cultivate an environment that’s not only safe but also acknowledges and respects these emotional undercurrents. Whether it’s the deep introspection triggered by “seek wisdom and growth” or the evocative nature of “acknowledge and embrace mortality,” being prepared for these emotional nuances is crucial in workshops like these.

Rad Resource: MURAL

Our endeavor was amplified by the dynamic capabilities of MURAL. This platform enabled us to construct a visually engaging curved life stage line. Participants could effortlessly navigate this digital canvas, locating themselves and articulating their roles and responsibilities. Its interactive features, such as draggable post-its, added layers of engagement to the entire exercise.

In Conclusion:

Our Life Stage Teachings Activity was more than just an exercise in introspection. It spotlighted the intriguing dynamics of cultural perspectives and their influence on life stage perceptions. By embracing and celebrating these variances, we inch closer to fostering more comprehensive, inclusive evaluations.

The American Evaluation Association is hosting Indigenous Peoples in Evaluation (IPE) TIG week. All posts this week are contributed by members of the IPE Topical Interest 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@eval.org. AEA365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. 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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