STEM Week: Alyssa Na’im on Using Culturally and Contextually Responsive Practices in STEM Education Evaluation

My name is Alyssa Na’im, Senior Research Associate at the Education Development Center, Inc., and I work on program evaluations of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education programs.  The goal of many STEM education programs is to diversify the STEM workforce by engaging populations who are traditionally underrepresented in these fields – racial/ethnic minorities, females, and individuals with disabilities. Just as there should be special attention given to the design and implementation of STEM learning activities to motivate and engage these targeted populations, the same level of care should be shown to the evaluations of such programs.

Lesson Learned: Being responsive to various cultures and cultural experiences requires the evaluator to understand the context of the program under consideration and use appropriate methods and tools in the evaluation.

There is well-established evidence that points to the value of using culturally and contextually responsive evaluation practices in STEM education programs. Designing and implementing an evaluation that is not sensitive to the culture and context of the STEM program will likely yield information that is limited in its value to the program staff and other stakeholders.  For example, using an assessment that references dominant culture ideals may alienate certain groups that participate in STEM education programs.  Similarly, out-of-school time STEM programs have a certain culture where traditional assessments may be inappropriate because they are too formal or resemble the high-stakes testing setting that occurs during the school day.  The quality of the evaluation is directly related to the evaluator’s depth of understanding of the nature of the program and its participants.  Engaging participants with a commitment to understanding their individual and collective identities as well as the environment in which the program operates, better informs all phases of the evaluation from its design and implementation to the analysis, reporting, and use.

Rad Resources:

Hot Tip:

The Evaluation 2013 conference is open to evaluators from all over the world. International submissions are most welcome to share knowledge on practice, research, and theory. This year’s conference theme is Evaluation Practice in the Early 21st Century.

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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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