Continuing the Journey to Reposition Culture and Cultural Context in Evaluation Theory and Practice
reviewed by Dhani Shah - June 22, 2016
Title: Continuing the Journey to Reposition Culture and Cultural Context in Evaluation Theory and Practice
Author(s): Stafford Hood, Rodney Hopson & Henry Frierson
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1623969352, Pages: 404, Year: 2014
Search for book at Amazon.com
Stafford Hood, Rodney Hopson, and Henry Friersons edited book, Continuing the Journey to Reposition Culture and Cultural Context in Evaluation Theory and Practice, advocates that cultural, racial, and ethnic diversity is one of the most salient features of contemporary society. Hence, they believe it is the right time for Culturally Responsive Evaluation (CRE), evaluations and assessments that embody cognitive, cultural, and interdisciplinary diversity that are actively responsive to culturally diverse communities and their academic performance goals (p. xiii). The focus of CRE is studying the context, history, and culture of an evaluated program and its participants and includes Indigenous communities in decision making throughout the evaluation. Thus, CRE is a theoretical, conceptual, and inherently political evaluation model that brings culture to the forefront in evaluation theory and practice. CRE emphasizes evaluation practice, which aims to achieve social justice and address human bias through inclusion, relationships, and an orientation to context (p. 180). Generally, human bias is based on our values, relationships, decisions, context, and culture and it can undermine the validity of evaluation processes. CRE keeps in mind the cultural beliefs, practices, norms, and values of any specific culture in which an evaluation is being implemented.
This book is an extension of introductory work on CRE. Back in 2005, the same three editors (Hood, Hopson, and Frierson) published a book titled, The Role of Culture and Cultural Context: A Mandate for Inclusion, the Discovery of Truth, and Understanding in Evaluative Theory and Practice (2005). In the initial version of this book the authors had reflected the rapidly emerging and frequently contentious discourse on this topic (Culturally Responsive Evaluation) during the early years of this new millennium (Hood, Hopson, & Frierson, 2015, p. xi).
Continuing the Journey to Reposition Culture is organized into five distinct sections including: a) CRE Theoretical and Historical Legacies and Extensions, b) Evaluators Journeys of Introspection and Self-Exploration, c) Applications of CRE in Global and Indigenous School Contexts, d) Claiming New Territories of CRE: Culturally Specific Methods, Approaches, and Ecologies, and e) Epilogue. In total, 50 experienced contributors have authored 17 chapters within these five book sections. This review treats this text holistically.
The initial chapters are devoted to setting the background for the CRE model which comprises understanding program context, engaging stakeholders, identifying the purpose(s) of evaluation, framing evaluation questions, designing an evaluation, selecting instruments, and collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data. Extending this discussion, the book deliberates the need for a systems approach to CRE practices and suggests using a system evaluation protocol (SEP) framework. System evaluation "refers to the assessment of functions, products, outcomes, and impacts of a system (set of programs, activities, or interventions) (Trochim et al., 2012, p. 1).
After setting the stage for CRE, the book discusses the concept of validity in CRE; describing that historically validity is defined by dominant groups and has remained a powerful tool for establishing their legitimization. However, as per the Indigenous Evaluation Framework (IEF), validity does not necessarily have the same meaning across different cultural contexts. The authors in Chapter Three argue that although culture-free assessment has long been abandoned, meaningful inclusion of culture in validation has not consistently followed (p. 51).
The book includes a thorough discussion about different CRE methods, strategies, and frameworks by giving several examples of evaluation studies in different Indigenous cultural communities across the world. The book dedicates five chapters to CRE practices for Māori Indigenous communities in Antearoa, New Zealand. The chapter authors also reflect on how a replication of these practices can be conducted for Indigenous communities in the U.S. and elsewhere. These chapters state that engagement and relationship-building rituals have a prime importance in Māori culture and are “grounded in relational trust and acceptance” (p. 95). Therefore, developmental evaluation practice, which is based on the respect of local cultures, their voices, and acknowledgement of cultural strengths, is a favored approach for the evaluation of Māori projects.
Furthermore, the book depicts the Kaupapa Māori (Māori way) paradigm. “Kaupapa Māori evaluation is an assertion of the right of Māori to conduct culturally responsive evaluations that are by, with and for Māori” (p. 296). Likewise, Kaupapa Māori relates to a worldview that the Māori people bring to evaluation; it is prescribed in their cultural terms and supports Māori development, societal transformation, and decolonization. Māori evaluators typically have different axiological, ontological, and epistemological foundations than western-oriented evaluators.
In Chapter Ten, authors OHara, McNamara, and Harrison share that CRE also has implications for educational assessment methods. Their discussion starts with a study aimed at investigating educational assessment in a multicultural Irish society. The traditional evaluation practices in Irish schools are based on an inflexible model that is exclusive of CRE practices. Irish teachers consider the traditional assessment neither culturally responsive nor sensitive. They share that they are trained as teachers to push students through a public end-of-schooling examination that is predominantly Irish and relates to Irish culture. Every child is assessed on the same model even if he or she comes from a different culture. Therefore, the assessment is not based on the principles of multiculturalism and the Irish system would not serve ethnic minorities in the country very well.
This book is a very serious effort at advocating for the importance, understanding, and application of CRE. Different case studies, descriptions of several projects and programs in several Indigenous communities of New Zealand, the U.S. and other global contexts explain that CRE is one vehicle by which to conduct culture- and context-friendly evaluation practices. The book contains notes and a glossary at the end of several chapters to help the reader understand the context but it does not contain any corresponding exercises.
Continuing the Journey to Reposition Culture and Cultural Context is written using technical and theoretical language and may pose challenges for some readers. Nevertheless, the book is a great in-depth resource for researchers, evaluators, practitioners, students, and teachers who are engaged in anthropological and ethnographic teaching, research, and evaluation. It systematically advocates the case for CRE, its framework, importance, relevance, and applicability in a culturally diverse world.
Hood, S., Hopson, R., & Frierson, H. (2005). The role of culture and cultural context: A mandate for inclusion, the discovery of truth, and understanding in evaluative theory and practice. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
Trochim, W., Urban, J. B., Hargraves, M., Hebbard, C., Buckley, J., Archibald, T., Johnson, M.,
& Burgermaster, M. (2012). The guide to the systems evaluation protocol. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Digital Print Services.