Recommended New Strategies to Promote Equity in Student Assessment

Conducting “equity-conscious evaluation” is the focus of a new report by the National Institute for the Assessment of Learning Outcomes (NILOA) which examines existing practices and recommends changes to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse student population.

The month of January 2020 report“A New Decade for Assessment: Embedding Equity in Assessment Practice” offers new models that actively engage students throughout the process and provide enhanced professional development for relevant staff.

Co-authored by Dr. Natasha A. Jankowski and Erick Montenegro, the latest report builds on a 2017 NILOA article that led to a national conversation on the issue of culturally responsive assessment.

“All too often, we compare the results of students of color to those of white students,” this year’s report says. “White students are then normalized as the population towards which others should strive.” The authors explained that such comparisons, especially if not worded or contextualized appropriately, can send the message that non-white students should strive to be like their white peers without examining the students’ unique experience. not white.

Dr. Natasha A. Jankowski

“When you see it in the evaluation, it’s kind of under the guise of measurement that they’re applying these theories,” Jankowski said. Miscellaneous, “but the theories they apply are based on a student population that we don’t currently serve. She added that assessments should involve “really looking at who our students are and how they are learning and what we can do to support them in the way they are learning.”

Jankowski is Executive Director of NILOA and Associate Research Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the Department of Educational Policy, Organization, and Leadership. Montenegro, co-author of the report, is a doctoral student in the Education Policy, Organization and Leadership program at the University of Illinois and communications coordinator and research analyst for NILOA.

In a section titled “Socially Just Evaluation,” the authors argue that evaluation is not an apolitical process. “We must first understand how systems of power and oppression influence how students experience college, engage in the learning process, and acquire knowledge before we can understand how to best assess their learning” , says the report.

He further hypothesized that power and oppression can factor into the assessment process when selecting which voices to include “and which methods we use or processes we follow”. The authors found that assessment is generally planned and carried out by faculty and administrators, and that changes are implemented based on what faculty and administrators deem most appropriate. Students are rarely involved in verifying that hypotheses are appropriate or meet their needs.

Jankowski and Montenegro also emphasize the need for students to have roles, “ranging from curating their own collections of evidence related to learning outcomes, [to] participate in the design of transparent assessments or simply help rewrite learning outcome statements in student-centred language. »

Drawing on extensive research related to evaluation, equity and cultural diversity, the report identified six guidelines for equity-conscious evaluation:

Check for biases and ask reflective questions throughout the assessment process to address assumptions and preferred positions.

  • Use multiple sources of evidence appropriate to the students being assessed and the assessment effort.
  • Include student perspectives and act on those perspectives.
  • Increase transparency of evaluation results and actions.
  • Ensure that the data collected can be meaningfully disaggregated and interrogated.
  • Make evidence-based changes that address context-specific equity issues.
  • Make evidence-based changes that address context-specific equity issues.

Jankowski said she and her colleagues at the institute embarked on the 2020 report after receiving a positive response to the 2017 paper, and plan to continue their equity assessment work. “We wanted to create a space where people could have this conversation because, if we’re not talking about it, we should be,” she said. “For us, we are not finished. We started the conversation and the conversations are great; it’s wonderful to see him go this far, but we have to push him forward.