Perspectives: Avoiding Stereotypes 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.

As the 2017 eXtension NAEPSDP Fellow for Program Evaluation, I have been on a journey to expand my awareness and understanding relating to inclusion, and to look at evaluation from this perspective, since participating in the Diversity and Inclusion Corps in Cincinnati.

Quality versus Quantity

I often ponder the busy-ness of those working in Extension. We wear a lot of hats and have many roles, but in providing education to our county or state residents, we want to be sure we are doing the best we can. To help us think about the quality of programming, not just the quantity, I share these thoughts that put stakeholders first.

Another thoughtful and thought-provoking reading recommendation from my colleague, Dr. Pamala Morris, Assistant Dean/Director of Multicultural Programs at the College of Agriculture at Purdue University, led me to Whistling Vivaldi by Claude M. Steele.

This book on “how stereotypes affect us and what we can do” is based on our human perception of identity. It shares the ways in which stereotyping defines groups and characteristics, how pervasive it is, and how it can influence performance. When individuals experience identity threat from associated restrictive characteristics, their performance is negatively affected. Stereotype threats occur from many perspectives and affect how people perform in education settings, as well as personal and professional situations.

What can we do?

In an education setting, researchers share a two-part explanation:

  • Self-affirmation or sense of competence and worth.
  • Accomplished challenges may create a mindset to interrupt negative restrictions of stereotypes.

For example, think of the message that women are not as good as men in math or science, and the resulting performance by women in STEM. Programming that affirms abilities in science — in combination with instruction and challenging STEM opportunities for accomplishment — can help in addressing the gap in performance associated with the stereotype.

Applying these concepts to our Extension setting, we can be deliberate in efforts to maintain keener awareness of our communities, to explore how we might affirm our stakeholders’ senses of self, and provide quality instruction and challenges to encourage achievement in learning.

This awareness can help direct our program evaluation activities to address the participants’ experience and perspective, not our own as program deliverers. Consider asking stakeholders about their experiences, comforts, barriers, challenges, benefits, values, and accomplishments from participating in programs. Here is where we find the quality in our work!

Thanks again to Pamala Morris for sharing and recommending this book on the human situation we live and face every day.

For More Information

You can contact Julie at jhuettem@purdue.edu

Steele, C.M. (2010). Whistling Vivaldi. New York, NY: W.W. Norton. http://books.wwnorton.com/books/Whistling-Vivaldi/

 

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