Archive: diversity

Blog: Attending to culture, diversity, and equity in STEM program evaluation (Part 2)

Posted on May 9, 2018 by  in Blog ()

Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Research Methodology, University of North Carolina Greensboro

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In my previous post, I gave an overview of two strategies you can use to inform yourself about the theoretical aspect of engagement with culture, diversity, and equity in evaluation. I now present two practical strategies, which I believe should follow the theoretical strategies presented in my previous post.

Strategy three: Engage with related sensitive topics informally

To begin to feel comfortable with these topics, engage with these issues during interactions with your evaluation team members, clients, or other stakeholders. Evaluators should acknowledge differing stakeholder opinions, while also attempting to assist stakeholders in surfacing their own values, prejudices, and subjectivities (Greene, Boyce, & Ahn, 2011).

To do this, bring up issues of race, power, inequity, diversity, and culture for dialogue in meetings, emails, and conversations (Boyce, 2017). Call out and discuss micro-aggressions (Sue, 2010) and practice acts of micro-validation (Packard, Gagnon, LaBelle, Jeffers, & Lynn, 2011). For example, when meeting with clients, you might ask them to discuss how they plan to ensure not just diversity but inclusivity within their program. You also can ask them to chart out program goals through a logic model but also ask them to consider if they think underrepresented participants might experience the program differently than their majority participants. Ask clients if they have considered cultural sensitivity training for program managers and/or participants.

Strategy four: Attend to issues of culture, equity, and diversity formally

Numerous scholars have addressed the implications of cultural responsiveness in practice (Frierson, Hood, Hughes, & Thomas, 2010; Hood, Hopson, & Kirkhart, 2015), with some encouraging contemplation surrounding threats to, as well as evidence for, multicultural validity by examining relational, consequential, theoretical, experiential, and methodological justificatory perspectives (Kirkhart, 2005, 2010). I believe the ultimate goal is to be able to attend to culture and context in all formal aspects of the research and evaluation. It is especially important to take a strengths-based, anti-defect approach (Chun & Evans, 2009) and focus on research intersectionality (Collins, 2000).

To do this, you can begin with the framing of the program goals. My programs aim to give underrepresented minorities in STEM skills to survive in the field. This perspective assumes that something is inherently wrong with these students. Instead, think about rewording evaluation questions to examine the culture of the department or program, to explore why more underrepresented groups (at least to have parity with the percentage in population) don’t thrive. Further, evaluators can attempt to include these topics in evaluation questions, develop culturally commensurate data instruments, and be sensitive to these issues during data collection, analysis, and reporting. Challenge yourself to think about this attendance as more than the inclusion of symbolic and politically correct buzzwords (Boyce & Chouinard, 2017), but as a true infusion of these aspects into your practice. For example, I always include an evaluation question about diversity, equity, and culture in my evaluation plans.

These two blog posts are really just the tip of the iceberg. I hope you find these strategies useful as you begin to engage with culture, equity, and diversity in your work. As I previously noted, I have included citations throughout so that you can read more about these important concepts. In a recently published article, my colleague Jill Anne Chouinard and I discuss how we trained evaluators to work through these strategies in a Culturally Responsive Approaches to Research and Evaluation course (Boyce & Chouinard, 2017).

References

Blog: Attending to culture, diversity, and equity in STEM program evaluation (Part 1)

Posted on May 1, 2018 by  in Blog ()

Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Research Methodology, University of North Carolina Greensboro

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

The conversation, both practical and theoretical, surrounding culture, diversity, and equity in evaluation has increased in recent years. As many STEM education programs aim to broaden participation of women, ethnic minority groups, and persons with disabilities, attention to culture, diversity, and equity is paramount. In two blog posts, I will provide a brief overview of four strategies to meaningfully and respectfully engage with these important topics. In this first blog, I will focus on strategies that are helpful in learning more about these issues but that are theoretical and not directly related to evaluation practice. I will also help you learn more about these issues. I should note that I purposely have included a number of citations so that you may read further about these topics.

Strategy one: Recognize social inquiry is a cultural product

Social science knowledge of minority populations, constructed with narrow worldviews, has demeaned characteristics, distorted interpretations of conditions and potential, and remained limited in its capacity to inform efforts to improve the life chances of historically disadvantaged populations (Ladson-Billings, 2000). Begin by educating yourself about the role communicentric bias—the tendency to make one’s own community, often the majority class, the center of conceptual frames that constrains all thought (Gordon, Miller, & Rollock, 1990)—and individual, institutional, societal, and civilizational racism play in education and the social sciences (Scheurich & Young, 2002). Seek to understand the culture, context, historical perspectives, power, oppressions, and privilege in each new context (Greene, 2005; Pon, 2009).

To do this, you can read and discuss books, articles, and chapters related to epistemologies— theories of knowledge—of difference, racialized discourses, and critiques about the nature of social inquiry. Some excellent examples include Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi, The Shape of the River by William G. Bowen and Derek Bok, and Race Matters by Cornel West. Each of these books is illuminating and a must-read as you begin or continue your journey to better understand race and privilege in America. Perhaps start a book club so that you can process these ideas with colleagues and friends.

Strategy two: Locate your own values, prejudices, and identities

The lens through which we view the world influences all evaluation processes, from design to implementation and interpretations (Milner, 2007; Symonette, 2015). In order to think crtically bout issues of culture, power, equity, class, race, and diversity, evaluators should understand their own personal and cultural values (Symonette, 2004). As Peshkin (1988) has noted, the practice of locating oneself can result in a better understanding of one’s own subjectivities. In my own work, I always attempt to acknowledge the role my education, gender, class, and ethnicity will play in my work.

To do this, you can reflect on your own educational background, personal identities, experiences, values, prejudices, predispositions, beliefs, and intuition. Focus on your own social identity, the identities of others, whether you belong to any groups with power and privilege, and how your educational background and identities shape your beliefs, role as an evaluator, and experiences. To unearth some of the more underlying values, you might consider participating in a privilege walk exercise and reflecting on your responses to current events.

These two strategies are just the beginning. In my second blog post, I will focus on engaging with these topics informally and formally within your evaluation practice.

References

Blog: Evaluation’s Role in Retention and Cultural Diversity in STEM

Posted on October 28, 2015 by  in Blog ()

Research Associate, Hezel Associates

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Recently, I attended the Building Pathways and Partnerships in STEM for a Global Network conference, hosted by the State University of New York (SUNY) system. It focused on innovative practices in STEM higher education, centered on increasing retention, completion, and cultural diversity.

As an evaluator, it was enlightening to hear about new practices being used by higher education faculty and staff to encourage students, particularly students in groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM, to stay enrolled and get their degrees. These included:

  • Research opportunities! Students should be exposed to real research if they are going to engage in STEM. This is not only important for four-year degree students, but also community college students, whether they plan to continue their education or move into the workforce.
  • Internships (PAID!) are crucial for gaining practical experience before entering the workforce.
  • Partnerships, partnerships, partnerships. Internships and research opportunities are most useful if they are with organizations outside of the school. This means considerable outreach and relationship-building.
  • One-on-one peer mentoring. Systems where upper level students work directly with new students to help them get through tough classes or labs has been shown to keep students enrolled not only in STEM programs, but in college in general.

The main takeaway from this conference is that the SUNY system is being more creative in engaging students in STEM. They are making a concerted effort to help underrepresented students. This trend is not limited to NY—many colleges and universities are focusing on these issues.

What does all this mean for evaluation? Evidence is more important than ever to sort out what types of new practices work and for whom. Evaluation designs and methods need to be just as innovative as the programs they are reviewing. As evaluators, we need to channel program designers’ creativity and apply our knowledge in useful ways. Examples include:

  • Being flexible. Many methods are brand new or new to the institution or department, so implementers may tweak them along the way. Which means we need to pay attention to how we assess outcomes, perhaps taking guidance from Patton’s Developmental Evaluation work.
  • Considering cultural viewpoints. We should always be mindful of the diversity of perspectives and backgrounds when developing instruments and data collection methods. This is especially important when programs are meant to improve underrepresented groups’ outcomes. Think about how individuals will be able to access an instrument (online, paper) and pay attention to language when writing questionnaire items. The American Evaluation Association provides useful resources for this: http://aea365.org/blog/faheemah-mustafaa-on-pursuing-racial-equity-in-evaluation-practice/
  • Thinking beyond immediate outcomes. What do students accomplish in the long-term? Do they go on to get higher degrees, do they get jobs that fit with their expectations? If you can’t measure these due to budget or timeline constraints, help institutions design ways to do this themselves. It can help them continue to identify program strengths and weaknesses.

Keep these in mind, and your evaluation can provide valuable information for programs geared to make a real difference.