By: Dominica McBride, Evaluator
As I sat watching eggs crack in a makeshift physics makerspace, I found myself in an interesting position as an evaluator. It was a struggle of being drawn and immersed in the social and physical sciences of the moment but with the tug of objectivity and mere observation. But what was most interesting was the culture I found myself in – the emerging culture my team was there to evaluate. The culture that was developing was one where teachers and students collaborated on projects, teachers were seen also as learners and students also as consultants. It was a culture of collaboration, discussion, exploration, thoughtfulness and diversity. Students and teachers from varying backgrounds came together to dabble in physics and computational thinking. This combination formed a unique blend of social and physical sciences, as evaluators watched for cultural sensitivity or the opposite, the project team facilitated discussion and exercises, and the teachers and students explored physics concepts and making.
Culture can be an ethereal construct and experience. It’s both organic and deliberately made. One of our main evaluation questions is “Was the process of assessment development inclusive and culturally sensitive?” From observing this first Maker Activity Team meeting, I could see examples of an inclusive and culturally sensitive process:
- In a small group discussion, a facilitator acknowledged and invited discussion on various learning styles through asking the group about what process they went through in reading the materials for the day. She shared her confusion in going through the readings, making it okay for others to be uncertain. She also shared her style of learning and invited others to share their unique process.
- During a small group exercise where groups of three were asked to make something that presented a physics concept, a student took the lead in his student-teacher team and came up with an idea that the team followed. This student-as-leader moment went against the education norm of this country where teachers often hold the power and students are seen as mere vessels in which knowledge should be poured. On the contrary, here, students were seen and treated as knowledgeable people who can create, guide, and lead.
- In the large group discussion, students, teachers, and the Assessment Development Team were asked their definition of culturally sensitive assessment. Everyone was given space to answer and their feedback was incorporated into a tool for the evaluation – an example of inclusive, participatory evaluation.
In closing, the students expressed their delight about the meeting. I have to wonder if part of this delight was due to them being seen as guides and consultants instead of business as usual. As we travel further on this assessment and evaluation journey, we’ll learn more about their underlying thoughts and what’s driving them down this road.