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MSI Fellowship Week: Counter-Life Herstories and Histories Elicit Cultural Context in Culturally Responsive Evaluation (CRE) by Shetay Ashford-Hanserd

Hi, my name is Shetay Ashford-Hanserd. I am entering my third year as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Occupational, Workforce, and Leadership Studies at Texas State University, where I developed a course entitled Program Evaluation in Career and Technical Education.  Since my research agenda focuses on broadening participation of women and historically underrepresented minorities (URM) in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), I often utilize critical epistemologies, theories, and frameworks in my knowledge validation processes to “speak truth to power”.  Specifically, I conceptualized the counter-life stories (e.g., counter-life herstories, counter-life histories) methodology to counter the majoritarian perspective about URM experiences in the context of STEM community workforce development.  During the 2018-2019 MSI AEA Fellowship Program, I have been on a quest to understand how to integrate culturally responsive evaluation (CRE) in my program evaluation course and community-engaged research.

During the AEA MSI fellowship, I had an opportunity to glean from seasoned teachers of evaluation (e.g., Arthur Hernandez), and participate in the AEA Summer Evaluation Institute 2018 and Evaluation 2018 conference, which included a pre-conference workshop on CRE by Rodney K. Hopson and Karen E. Kirkhart, to bolster my knowledge of CRE.  I also explored tenets of CRE as part of our fellowship group project and invited conference presentation.  As a result, I discovered a critical connection between CRE and my research practices.

Lessons Learned: CRE is an emergent evaluation approach that promotes awareness and sensitivity to culture and cultural context [4,2,5], it is critical to first understand the cultural context during the preparation stage of an evaluation.  Because counterstories “give voice” to marginalized people groups by countering the master narrative (i.e., majoritarian perspective) about their experiences [3], life histories are individuals’ retrospective accounts about their life stories [7], and herstories represent “the rewriting or respeaking of history” from a woman’s perspective [6], counter-life herstories/histories [1] offer a powerful approach to reveal hidden truths about people of color’s experiences in the context of CRE.

Rad Resources: I have provided the following CRE and counter-life herstories/histories resources to help you in your pursuit of understanding the sociocultural context while conducting or teaching culturally responsive evaluation.

  1. Counter-life herstories/histories methodology
  2. Culturally responsive evaluation: theory, practice and future implications
  3. Critical race theory and adult education
  4. A guide to conducting culturally-responsive evaluations
  5. Reclaiming knowledge at the margins: Culturally responsive evaluation in the current evaluation moment
  6. History/herstory: Gender, identity and culture of organizations
  7. Interpreting life histories: an anthropological inquiry


The American Evaluation Association is AEA Minority Serving Institution (MSI) Fellowship Experience week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from AEA’s MSI Fellows. For more information on the MSI fellowship, see this webpage: http://www.eval.org/p/cm/ld/fid=230 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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