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Imperialist Methodologies: Evaluation in Donor-Driven Projects

Global Education Colloquium

February 17, 2021
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Dr. Bjorn Nordtveit, PhD
University of Massachusetts Amherst

Using critical auto-ethnographic data, Dr. Bjorn Nordtveit presents research methodologies and evaluation strategies related to donor-driven international, longitudinal research projects with multi-member teams. Drawing on three projects on girls and women’s education in contexts of extreme adversity – two projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and one in Senegal – using both qualitative and quantitative data, this presentation presents challenges and opportunities for overcoming “imperialism” in donor-driven education research. Dr. Nordtveit’s work is based on an understanding of research presented in Denzin and Salvo’s (eds., 2020) New Directions in Theorizing Qualitative Research (4 volumes), as well as the Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies (Denzin, Lincoln and Tuhiwai Smith, eds., 2008) and in Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples (2nd edition, 2012). Following a discussion of the vocabulary and literature related to monitoring and evaluation (M&E) and international project-related research, his presentation focuses on three aspects of the projects: (i) Methodological hegemony: the donors requested adhesion to “gold standard” practices in research, as defined by them (donors) with little acceptance for alternative methodologies; (ii) Lack of ethics: The ethical standards of research were not clear and there was little or no consultation with local participants and stakeholders about the appropriateness of the research questions and methodologies; and (iii) Selective Evaluation: The focus on evaluating one action vs. another displaced the focus from larger issues about the general approaches and appropriateness of the project. These three aspects contribute to the characterization of research as “the dirtiest words in the indigenous world's vocabulary” (Tuhiwai Smith 2012, 1). The presentation ends with suggestions towards a community-driven, participatory and transformative research design, in projects that are implemented in a community-led manner. 

Dr. Bjorn Nordtveit is an Associate Professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst since 2011, after serving for five years as Research Assistant Professor at the University of Hong Kong. He has also served as visiting faculty at Zhejiang Normal University. Prior to joining academia, he worked for twelve years (1994-2005) with UNESCO in the Lao PRD and with the World Bank (mostly in West African countries) on non-formal youth and adult education. His research, teaching and writing focus on three areas: (i) aid effectiveness in education and development, including public-private partnerships and integrated service provision; (ii) child protection in contexts of adversity; and (iii) critical and alternative epistemologies, including critical auto ethnography, decolonial methods and critical discourse analysis. His most recent book is Schools as Protection? Reinventing Education in Contexts of Adversity (Springer 2016). Dr. Nordtveit is the editor of the Comparative Education Review (2013-2023).