Teaching Africa-Rooted Evaluation: Using a “Model Client” Innovation to Help Shift the Locus of Knowledge Production
Recent years have seen the emergence in both academic generally and evaluation specifically a strong “Made in Africa” discourse, urging us to critically reflect on how we might integrate African methods, culture and knowledge systems into both teaching and practice. This teaching practice note reflects on one small, but potentially significant step towards this through a curriculum redesign of a core introductory module on University of Cape Town’s Masters in Program Evaluation. Our idea, which we call a “model client” approach, was to bring on board the evaluation client as a co-learner in the classroom environment. Through a series of instructor-facilitated client-student engagements, students and client worked within the classroom environment on understanding the program logic, tailoring evaluation questions, and co-learning about evaluation approach. While not without its challenges, our model client approach made meaningful strides towards moving the locus of evaluation knowledge creation away from a theoretically grounded introductory course which drew predominantly on Western texts and theory, towards an approach where both our understanding of the evaluation process and evaluation capabilities themselves are co-created by (our uniquely African) clients, students, and instructors. Key challenges in implementing this approach included the client’s sense of vulnerability, student inexperience in evaluation theory and practice, and a conspicuous shortage of African-generated evaluation case studies and texts. Reflections for addressing these challenges include the need for teaching instructors to better centre student and clients learning around the objectives of the model client initiative, better communication as to the central principles of Made in Africa evaluation, and continuing to support the development if uniquely “indigenised” African evaluation scholarship and source materials.
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