STEM TIG Week: Speaking Truth to Power in Three NSF Evaluation Contexts by Ayesha Boyce, Adeyemo Adetogun, Cherie Avent, and Grettel Arias Orozco

Hi, we’re Ayesha Boyce, assistant professor and Adeyemo Adetogun, Cherie Avent, and Grettel Arias Orozco, graduate students at the University of North Carolina Greensboro. Together we conduct research within and evaluate three National Science Foundation (NSF) projects: 1) a Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Program (S-STEM) at a Minority Serving Institution, 2) a Historically Black College and University Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP), and 3) a Nanotechnology Hierarchical Nanomanufacturing Node (NanoMFG) at a Predominately White Institution. Many NSF projects have expected outcomes of improving the quality of education and increasing access for underrepresented students to STEM majors and careers, so we have had the opportunity to utilize evaluation frameworks that are social justice oriented.  In this blog, we offer strategies to speak truth to power, which we view as attending to equity, diversity, and culture.

Hot Tip: Review Some Literature

Explicit attention to these issues within evaluation can initially be daunting. There are hundreds of articles that mention culturally responsive or culturally competent evaluation in the literature, theoretical and empirical examinations of these approaches and frameworks are increasing. We have found that it can be helpful to get a firm foundation of how to evaluate programs whose goal is to make STEM learning experiences more inclusive while engaging students and raising quality-standards, by reviewing articles, public evaluation reports, and of course blog posts!

Hot Tip: Informally Discuss Sensitive Concepts

In addition to formally incorporating culturally responsive practices into our work, by explicitly asking evaluation question targeting race, power, inequity, diversity, and culture, we also bring up these issues for dialogue in meetings, emails, and conversations. We have found that informally engaging these issues during interactions with evaluation team members, clients, and other stakeholders can increase levels of comfort with these topics. We believe evaluators should acknowledge differing opinions, and assist in surfacing the multiplicity of values, prejudices, and subjectivities of stakeholders.

Hot Tip: Check Yourself

Educational background and training, personal identities, experiences, values, prejudices, predispositions, beliefs, and intuition can all influence the evaluation processes; from design to implementation, and interpretations. In our work, we attempt to acknowledge and reflect on the role each plays in an evaluation.

Hot Tip: Read the Room

Evaluations are embedded in various contexts. Each impact the way we understand and approach the program to be evaluated. Thus, it is vital for professionals in the field to make sense of the experiences, circumstances, and context of each evaluation because strategies to attend to these issues may work in one context, but not another.   

Rad Resources: Below, we’ve included some of our go-to resources:

  1. AEA Dialogue on Race and Class
  2. Continuing the Journey to Reposition Culture and Cultural Context in Evaluation Theory and Practice by Stafford Hood, Rodney Hopson, Henry Frierson
  3. AJE Forum on Race and Evaluation
  4. Lessons learned using a values-engaged approach to attend to culture, diversity, and equity in a STEM program evaluation by Ayesha Boyce

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating STEM Education and Training TIG Week with our colleagues in the STEM Education and Training Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our STEM TIG members. 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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