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Culturally Responsive Evaluation as a Form of Critical Qualitative Inquiry  

Michelle Bryan and Ashlee Lewis

As a form of applied research, program evaluation is concerned with determining the worth, merit, or value of a program or project using various research methods. Over the past 20 years, the field of program evaluation has seen an expansion in the number of approaches deemed useful in accomplishing the goals of an evaluation. One of the newest approaches to the practice of evaluation is culturally responsive evaluation. Practitioners of CRE draw from a “responsive approach” to evaluation that involves being attuned to and responsive toward not only the program itself, but also its larger cultural context and the lives and experiences of program staff and stakeholders. CRE views culture broadly as the totality of shared beliefs, behaviors, values, and customs socially transmitted within a group and which shapes group members’ world view and ways of life. Further, with respect to their work, culturally responsive evaluators share similar commitments with scholars to critical qualitative inquiry, including a belief in moving inquiry (evaluation) beyond description to intervention in the pursuit of progressive social change, as well as positioning their work as a means by which to confront injustices in society, particularly the marginalization of people of color. Owing to these beliefs and aims, culturally responsive evaluators tend to lean toward a more qualitative orientation, both epistemologically and methodologically. Thus, when taken up in practice, culturally responsive evaluation can be read as a form of critical qualitative inquiry.