May 14, 2012
The American Evaluation Association’s newsletter column, “Walking the Talk” is designed to familiarize AEA readers with its values statement, by asking members of the AEA community to contribute their own reflections on the association's values. The April issue features a response from CEMSE Research and Evaluation Associate, Maurice Samuels, who has been a member of the AEA since 2004. View the rest of the April newsletter
My name is Maurice Samuels and I conduct Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) educational evaluations as a research and evaluation associate at the Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education at the University of Chicago. My introduction to AEA was as an inaugural member of the Graduate Educational Diversity Internship (GEDI) Program in 2004. Since then, I have served as co-chair of the mentoring committee in the Multi-ethnic Issues in Evaluation (MIE) Topical Interest Group and have attended AEA retreats. Currently, I serve as co-chair of the MIE Topical Interest Group.
My service and commitment to AEA is a result of the organization's commitment to diversifying the evaluation profession. In particular, AEA has dedicated human and financial resources needed to make and sustain meaningful change within the evaluation field. The organization's commitment to diversity has helped to infuse the evaluation field with new insights, ideas, and knowledge on how programs are designed, implemented, and experienced by individuals and groups that are underrepresented. For me, it is AEA's commitment to inclusiveness and diversifying the field of evaluation that serves as the continuing catalyst for my service to the organization.
When I reflect on AEA's values statement, as it applies to my practice, I consider how I can include the voices of underrepresented groups in the evaluation process. For me, the inclusion of these voices is important because my evaluation practice is within the context of a large urban K-12 school district where the voices of certain stakeholder groups are often unheard, particularly in terms of decision-making processes, program improvements, and policy formulations. The statement also makes me aware of my own cultural values and how they converge or diverge from stakeholders which, in turn, shapes my relationships with stakeholders.
As an evaluator, I recognize programs are located in institutions characterized by a particular culture. As such, there are different cultural practices at the individual, group, and institutional level that can create tensions and present barriers to understanding and communication among stakeholders. Given this reality, the values statement encourages me to continuously seek out ways to share findings with stakeholders in an effective yet humane manner so that barriers can be reduced and, at the same time, an ethically defendable evaluation will be conducted.
Finally, as an evaluator from an underrepresented group, when I reflect on AEA's values statement, it encourages me to rethink ways in which I can assist AEA in its continuing efforts to attract and build the evaluation capacity of evaluation professionals from underrepresented groups.
I am truly thankful to be a member of AEA, and find it a great honor to serve the organization.