Case Studies of Evaluators’ Lives: A cultural perspective (yes, culture!)
From: Jane Davidson
The panel line-up was not one you would even remotely expect to see sponsored by any of the TIGs with a focus on culture. They were five senior white male Americans including some of the pioneers of the profession’s early development in the United States: Michael Scriven, Bob Stake, Ernie House, Marv Alkin, and Michael Quinn Patton. Two other contributors weren’t able to attend in person: Eleanor Chelimsky and Dan Stufflebeam.
In fact, the panel wasn’t sponsored by any of the culture-themed TIGs, but actually, it could have been.
The panel was the brainchild of David Williams, who is immersed in a study of evaluators’ lives and how their lives influence their evaluation perspectives, approaches, and practices. These were the very first wave of interviews in an ongoing study that is now branching out to explore the same questions with a more diverse and a more junior group of evaluators.
As I listened to the stories of where each of these evaluators had come from, I was struck by the cultural element in the discussion, although I strongly suspect that none of the panelists was even remotely aware of it.
Actually, it was historic, in a way.
Here I was, listening to five senior white male American evaluators telling us the story of who they were as individual and cultural beings – and how their cultural identities, their parents, their childhood experiences, and several defining moments in their lives – had shaped both their journey into evaluation and the perspectives they have taken in their evalution theories and practices.
Some of them had answered the question more as a work history (“how I got into evaluation and doing what I do”). But some took us on a journey into their childhoods, talked about those early experiences and the influence of their parents. For these, you could see where many of their values, their perspectives, and their approaches to evaluation had been rooted.
David Williams continues this work by interviewing other evaluators, and I was intrigued to be asked to participate myself. And actually, it flicked on a few lightbulbs for me too about the real roots of how I approach things. Perhaps I’ll share a bit about that one day too.
If we know a thing or two about where someone has come from – historically, culturally, and individually – it tells you a lot about where they are coming from in their work and the way they see the world generally. And when we reflect on where our own values and ways of looking at the world have come from, that’s part of learning who we are as cultural beings, not just as individuals.
And that is just what David Williams, a white American male himself, has managed to get seven of our pioneers to do. Impressive!
I look forward to a sequel session in 2014, and to the write-up of the findings.
Want to see more? Keep an eye on David Williams’ entries in the e-library, where he said he’d upload the presentation and copies of what Dan Stufflebeam and Eleanor Chelimsky contributed.