I came across this quote from Viktor Frankl today (thanks to a colleague)
“…everything can be taken from a man (sic) but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Viktor Frankl (Man’s Search for Meaning – p.104)
I realized that, especially at this time of year, attitude is everything–good, bad, indifferent–the choice is always yours.
How we choose to approach anything depends upon our previous experiences–what I call personal and situational bias. Sadler* has three classifications for these biases. He calls them value inertias (unwanted distorting influences which reflect background experience), ethical compromises (actions for which one is personally culpable), and cognitive limitations (not knowing for what ever reason).
When we approach an evaluation, our attitude leads the way. If we are reluctant, if we are resistant, if we are excited, if we are uncertain, all these approaches reflect where we’ve been, what we’ve seen, what we have learned, what we have done (or not). We can make a choice how to proceed.
The America n Evaluation Association (AEA) has long had a history of supporting difference. That value is imbedded in the guiding principles. The two principles which address supporting differences are
- Respect for People: Evaluators respect the security, dignity, and self-worth of respondents, program participants, clients, and other evaluation stakeholders.
- Responsibilities for General and Public Welfare: Evaluators articulate and take into account the diversity of general and public interests and values that may be related to the evaluation.
AEA also has developed a Cultural Competence statement. In it, AEA affirms that “A culturally competent evaluator is prepared to engage with diverse segments of communities to include cultural and contextual dimensions important to the evaluation. Culturally competent evaluators respect the cultures represented in the evaluation.”
Both of these documents provide a foundation for the work we do as evaluators as well as relating to our personal and situational bias. Considering them as we enter into the choice we make about attitude will help minimize the biases we bring to our evaluation work. The evaluative question from all this–When has your personal and situational biases interfered with you work in evaluation?
Attitude is always there–and it can change. It is your choice.
Sadler, D. R. (1981). Intuitive data processing as a potential source of bias in naturalistic evaluations. Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 3, 25-31.