SWTIG Week: Michaele Webb Cultural Competence and Evaluation

Hi! I’m Michaele Webb and I am a PhD student at Syracuse University. My research interests include rural education and conducting evaluations in rural areas.

Hot Tips:

  • Follow the lead of individuals in the program you are evaluating.

These individuals are familiar with the everyday life of the program; they have first-hand knowledge of what is and isn’t working. They have developed an understanding of the program and client cultures. They can provide information regarding what is and is not acceptable in the program context.

  • Just because you have conducted an evaluations for a particular group does not mean that you can run all evaluations you conduct with that group in the same way. While this may seem straightforward, it is something I sometimes overlook. In my researching rural programs, I have learned that what rural looks like in one area may be very different from what rural looks like in another. For example, in rural Alaska evaluators may travel by plane to reach their population, while in rural Louisiana, they might travel by boat. Also, while some rural areas have very diverse populations, others don’t. So, learn from evaluations you have conducted, but do not try to replicate them with a new population or environment.
  • Cultural Competence isn’t something you learn from a textbook.

During my time as a PhD student, I have learned that no matter how much time I spend reading about the population I am working with, the most important thing that I can do is to get out and talk with them first hand.

Lesson Learned: Sometimes even the most rigorous evaluation won’t help the population if you do not use culturally competent evaluation practices.

  • If you do not keep the culture of the group you are working with in mind, the evaluation results might not be valid because they do not accurately assess what is occurring within that particular group.
  • Evaluators need to be aware of the norms of the particular group they are working with. If an evaluation violates the norms, the individuals may be quick to dismiss the evaluation results.
  • Culture can impact how individuals access information. If you are not aware of how information is spread within the community you are working with, you might not get the information to all the people who need it. Also, you may present it in a way that makes it difficult for them to understand.

Rad Resources:

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating SW TIG Week with our colleagues in the Social Work Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our SWTIG 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.

2 thoughts on “SWTIG Week: Michaele Webb Cultural Competence and Evaluation”

  1. Hello Michaele,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Cultural Competence and Evaluation! I was scrolling through different blog posts on culture and found your post very interesting with lost of great information.

    My name is Kristin and I am currently taking the course Program Inquiry and Evaluation at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario for my Professional Master of Education program. I am currently a grade 7 teacher in a fly in community in Nunavut, Canada.

    One thing from your post that really stuck out for me was your second hot tip “Just because you have conducted an evaluation for a particular group does not mean that you can run all evaluations you conduct with that group in the same way.” Your examples rang very true for me as I am currently in Canada’s north in a rural community. I have lived in two different communities and the differences between the language, culture, people are very different in some way, as I am sure they would be in other communities as well. And I agree with you that when conducting an evaluation, just because both communities may be rural or the same culture, does not mean your evaluation will work the same for that group of people.

    In your lessons learned you mentioned that you need to keep the culture of the group in mind. What do you do in order to prepare for your evaluations in the different communities/cultures? Are there certain people that you go to ahead of time or do you do research on your own? How much time do you spend preparing before entering a community to do an evaluation?

    Thanks again for sharing these hot tips and lessons learned!


  2. Kenkinika Hayden

    What a great reminder to those both new and more seasoned in this profession! It is very important to approach each evaluation with a sensitivity to both its stakeholders and to the community that is effected by it. I think it’s a really good rule of thumb in this case to focus on “active listening”. You definitely want to utilize past research an information as a baseline, but it should not be a driving force in the evaluation.

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