Perspectives: Overcoming Bias in Program Evaluation

Julie Huetteman, Ph.D., is the Strategic Initiatives Coordinator at Purdue Extension. She is serving as the National Association of Extension Program and Staff Development Professionals (NAEPSDP) eXtension Fellow for 2017.

My eXtension NAEPSDP Fellowship for Program Evaluation 2017 started with the Diversity and Inclusion Corps in Cincinnati. I have been exploring related resources, opportunities, and associations ever since. Here I share thoughts and reflections more so than a set of instructions. We need space and time to ponder our human experience and learn about other perspectives to incorporate those thoughts as we plan, develop, deliver and report on our Extension work.

Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald is one book recommended to me by Dr. Pamala Morris, Assistant Dean/Director of the Office of Multicultural Programs in the College of Agriculture at Purdue University. The book is about research on our human minds that looks at how our biases develop toward race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion and so on. The researchers share their Implicit Association Test (IAT), which measures how the brain associates people and groups with traits and values. This automatic preference that develops pervades even when egalitarian beliefs are expressed.

A lot of self-reflection about perceptions and openness to others resulted for me. Completing sample tests and activities had me assessing my views, thoughts, and actions about and toward others. This created time and space to think and reflect on our society and our human relations across the personal and professional, local and regional, and global.

We can apply these reflections to program evaluation efforts.

  1. Make sure we make time to reflect on our own hidden biases.
  2. Make opportunities to include our clients/participants in our activities. Invite the perceptions, thoughts, and direction of our stakeholders from the beginning, and throughout, as we work to plan, develop, deliver, and report program activities and evaluation approaches.

The ultimate result is that the opportunities made available are of value and benefit to stakeholders. Given the busy-ness of our jobs, these steps can be easy to overlook, but they are incredibly worthwhile.

I would like to send a special thank you to Pam, for sharing this resource with me at this moment in our society and for a time of reflection on our human interactions.

Julie Huetteman, Ph.D., Coordinator, Extension Strategic Initiatives, Purdue Extension

Banaji, M.R. & Greenwald, A.G. (2016). Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People. New York, NY: Bantam Books.

 

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