This essay engages questions of evaluator role and indigenous peoples participation in evaluation within colonial and decolonization contexts. Specifically, I critique the Western emphasis on cultural competence and contrast the utility of ‘mainstream’ evaluation approaches alongside three indigenous inquiry models (Te Kotahitanga, Whakawhanaungatanga, and He Taniko) as utilized by/with indigenous Maori in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Using practical examples of evaluation projects conducted with and by Maori, the article highlights the very different ‘evaluation conversations’ happening amongst ‘mainstream’ practitioners—where the focus is on difference, competency, and issues of access—relative to those occurring amongst indigenous evaluators and communities—where evaluation praxis is framed within broader struggles for sovereignty and self-determination. By placing these paradigms in conversation with each other, I highlight the ways in which evaluation approaches that engage indigenous people and places are always representative of particular standpoints. This is because evaluation is unavoidably and simultaneous in dialog with the prevailing contexts of colonization and decolonization vis-a-vis the location and moment in which it occurs. The essay foregrounds the ways in which `mainstream’ evaluation’s preoccupation with issues of cultural competency fails to fully address the needs and aspirations of indigenous peoples. In contrast, the realization of Maori capacity to meet our evaluation needs as Maori, and as represented in the ongoing development and use of our own approaches and models, not only facilitates a more culturally meaningful evaluation process but also concurrently constitutes an expression of our sovereignty and agency.
In an earlier paper, Slee and Keenan demonstrated that it was possible for tertiary education institutions to design culturally responsive assessment procedures that complied with standardized assessment policy. The authors’ paper described Growing Our Own, an initiative between Charles Darwin University and Northern Territory Catholic Education, which in 2009 began preparing in situ Indigenous teacher assistants for teacher qualification in very remote schools in the Northern Territory, Australia. The paper demonstrated that the university assessment policy accommodated Indigenous learning, reflecting students’ culture, remote learning context, world experience, primary language, family and community values and entry?level competencies. This article is a systemic response to recommendations arising from a recent external evaluation of Growing Our Own and seeks to demonstrate how the project’s approaches meet university assessment rules yet fit within a culturally valid framework.
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