One of the challenges facing institutions of higher education today is how to deal with issues of equity. At ACC, addressing the needs of a diverse student body, staff, and faculty are integrated into the College’s strategic plan. But what is equity? And more specifically, how does it relate to assessment?
ACC was fortunate to have Erick Montenegro, a leading researcher on equity in assessment, make a presentation on Friday, April 24, 2020, to the Teaching & Learning Academy. Entitled "Meeting the Challenges of a New Decade through Equity-Minded Assessment," the presentation focused on culturally responsive approaches to assessing our students and using that information in ways that promote our students’ success rather than continue inequities. A recording of the presentation and a brief summary are avaiable here:
Presentation Recording: https://us-lti.bbcollab.com/recording/c5e4abecb40843bfaf9fd0b4d022e156
Presentation Summary: Equity-Minded Assessment
In addressing equity concerns, one must be ever mindful of implicit biases. To quote Fr. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan monk, "One of the keys to wisdom is that we must recognize our own biases, our own addictive preoccupations, and those things to which, for some reason, we refuse to pay attention. Until we see these patterns . . ., we will never be able to see what we do not see." His Center for Action and Contemplation has an excellent summary of many of these biases of which we are often not even aware that we hold.
The terms diversity, equality, and equity are closely related, but have somewhat different meanings:
Diversity - The degree to which an institution, program, or other organization is comprised of individuals with a variety of backgrounds and characteristics (i.e., ethnicity, gender, religion, socioeconomic status, etc.).
Equality - The treatment of all individuals in a comparable, non-discriminatory manner, providing the same opportunities and resources for all.
While admirable in and of itself, a focus on equality often fails to consider cultural biases, many of which have been in place for centuries, and ignores the way in which such practices create hurdles for those of traditionally marginalized populations.
Equity - Equity is the provision of resources and support to individuals as needed to ensure not only access to opportunities but the readiness to take advantage of those opportunities to achieve success.
In an equitable situation, such as students studying in a particular program, any individual has just as much likelihood of success as any other. Any differences in their performance are entirely due to factors over which the students have control. An analysis of their performance that disaggregates the data by race, gender, or any other parameter would show no consistent pattern.
Those practices that help students achieve equitable outcomes are those that help all students. Equitable assessments allow for diverse ways of demonstrating that achievement. Some of these include (Montenegro & Jankowski, 2017; Suskie, 2018, Wright, 2017; Feldman, 2019):
Obviously, not all of the assessment approaches mentioned here are appropriate for every assignment or discipline. But we, as faculty, should always be wary of our own implicit biases and be mindful of the challenges posed by our students’ cultural differences.
To compensate for cultural biases and the societal inequities they create for members of traditionally marginalized populations, resources are directed towards individuals to provide intentional support as appropriate. Achieving equity requires an awareness of different cultural perspectives and the experiences of members of other groups.
The summary below provides some more detailed background on equity in assessment:
Equity in Assessment: Equity in Assessment
Some excellent references to pursue this further:
Feldman, J., 2019, Grading for Equity: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How It Can Transform Schools and Classrooms. Corwin, 266 p.
Montenegro, E. & Jankowski, N., 2017, Equity & Assessment: Moving Towards Culturally Responsive Assessment (Occasional Paper No. 29). Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA).
Suskie, L., 2018, Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide. John Wiley & Sons, 386 p.
Wright, M., (2017, May). Steps in the Right Direction: Additional Strategies for Fostering Culturally Responsive Assessment (Equity Response). Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA).
A more comprehensive listing of relevant assessment references can be found at the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment website here. In addition, a number of other very helpful references relating more generally to equity in instruction can be found at the Equity Office Library, and in related resources provided by the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion office regarding eliminating institutional racism and other recommended readings. There is a lot of insightful and meaningful information at these links, so please check them out.
Trigger Warnings, Content Advisories, and Alternative Assessments
Another topic regarding inclusion and sensitivity are trigger warnings or content advisories. Our own Dr. Sarah Bowman has written a short essay on the subject, with some guidance on how to handle curricula to which some students might have a strong reaction because of having suffered a traumatic experience.
Assessment During a Pandemic
As the College has made the wrenching transition to remote teaching, faculty have also had to change how they measure the extent to which their students have learned the curriculum. Such changes have raised concerns about equity and effectiveness, concerns for which there are no easy answers. Fortunately, Erick Montenegro at the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment has put together a valuable collection of resources available here. A short summary of some of these issues and how best to approach them can be found here.
If you are interested in learning more about the Discipline Assessment Cycle (DAC), and how it ties into TracDat, please download the manual here.