MSI Fellowship Week: Cultural Responsiveness and Self Awareness by Dorothy Brandon

Hello, my name is Dorothy Brandon. I am an Extension Specialist at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University. As an Extension Specialist, my major roles include developing programs to address identified community needs and training extension agents to deliver such programs. I am also responsible for evaluating the impact of both programs and training. I want to talk about the challenges I experienced going from formal to nonformal education.

Unlike an evaluator of student learning, whereby the responsibility is to determine what students should learn and how they should learn it, I now participate in community needs assessments called “grassroots meetings” to hear what community stakeholders say they need. Also, I am actively involved with program advisory boards made up of community members from all walks of life. They are the ones driving the development of programs and events. Although formal and nonformal education both focus on getting individuals (students or clients) to know, to do, and to become, both culture groups have relevance for how cultural responsiveness and cultural humility are fused into evaluation.

During a training session held in March of this year, the Urban Extension Agents participated in a guided tour of the Rosa Parks Museum. The tour’s purpose was to help agents better understand the culture of the majority of older clients they will serve through the program. At the end of the museum tour, the group took several group pictures, one of which was to be a fun photo. While taking the fun photo, I noticed the new agent giving the okay hand gesture in the picture. Upon seeing this, I assumed she was giving the white power signal. After some self-evaluation, I realized that I unfairly judged the agent based on my lived experiences (sharecropper daughter, experience with Apartheid in the late 80s, etc.), her skin color, where she resides in Alabama and generalizations.

Lessons Learned

Regardless of the type of setting (formal or nonformal/instructor or specialist/researcher or evaluator), be doers, not just believers of cultural competence and cultural humility. Get to know what individuals, families, and communities want or need and how they want things done before quickly applying your knowledge of evaluation and often biased judgments.

Humble yourselves so that we can truly hear and recognize others. Irrespective of our level of expertise, we can’t allow our expertise to prevent us from seeing the value of others. Everyone brings something of value to the table if only we can take the time to recognize and understand it.

Be honest with yourself. Have the courage to look within to determine your prejudices and limitations and don’t cover every individual with the same blanket of generalizations. With more than our eyes, we must be able to see that every individual within a group, a community, and a race is different.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating AEA Minority Serving Institution (MSI) Fellowship Experience week. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from AEA’s MSI Fellows. 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. 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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