MSI Fellowship Week: Empowering Educators to Conduct Evaluation: 3 Considerations for the Field by Sharla Berry

I’m Sharla Berry, PhD, a Fellow of the Minority Serving Institutions initiative of the American Evaluation Association and Assistant Professor in the Graduate School of Education at California Lutheran University.

Education leaders are often on the receiving end of evaluation. When government agencies or accrediting bodies make decisions about evaluation, they often fail to collect input from K-12 practitioners or higher education faculty.  As a result, some practitioners have complicated feelings in regards to evaluation.  By equipping practitioners currently enrolled in Masters and Doctoral programs with the skills necessary to conduct evaluations, we can help mitigate some of the complicated feelings associated with evaluation and prepare them for the limited opportunities to provide input. In this post, I share three considerations for supporting practitioners in building evaluation skills.

Lessons Learned:

First, it is important to support practitioners in carrying out small-scale evaluations. Assuming students typically learn best by doing, guiding them in carrying out evaluations is an effective way to help them connect evaluation theory to practice.  The knowledge gained from actually doing evaluation will be deeper, richer, and longer lasting. Additionally, a hands-on approach to teaching evaluation will help students become more savvy consumers and producers of both evaluation data and research.

Second, it is important to teach practitioners about types of evaluation that will be particularly useful in K-20 settings. K-20 practitioners who engage in evaluation will likely do so in the contexts in which they work. This reality brings with it a number of political tensions to manage. While each practitioner will navigate these tensions differently, those supporting practitioners should be mindful of the types of evaluations that might reduce some political tensions.  For example, appreciative inquiry, which includes a focus on an organization’s assets, can help stakeholders feel more comfortable with the evaluation process. In collaborative inquiry, stakeholders work together throughout all aspects of the evaluation, increasing the likelihood for cohesion. Practitioners may be more apt to engage in evaluation if they utilize models of evaluation that can help mitigate political challenges that may arise.

Finally, practitioners should be supported in carefully considering what culturally relevant evaluation looks like in context. This includes  defining what culture is, understanding what cultures are present in a particular context and understanding how power, privilege and positionally impact one’s ability to carry out an evaluation in a particular context. Too often, our understandings of culture as it relates to evaluation involves splitting groups into essentialist categories, without an assessment of what these categories mean in context. In order for evaluation to be culturally relevant and responsive, it must attend to the lived experiences of evaluators and those being evaluated, as well as the larger sociopolitical ecosystem within which a particular context exists. Culturally relevant and responsive evaluation is an emergent field that can help practitioners work toward these goals.

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=230Do 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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