Equitable Assessment Practices

In keeping with PLU’s access, recruitment, and retention goals, we must expand our understanding of “effectiveness” in assessment to include equity-centered assessment practices. According to Montenegro and Jankowski (NILOA 2020) equity in assessment relies on three changes in how we think about data collection, analysis, and action: 

  1. Assessment should be culturally responsive, meaning it should be mindful of context and the various student populations being served and use student-focused and culturally-appropriate language in learning outcomes statements. Further, it should involve students in the process of assessment. 
  2. Assessment should be socially just, meaning that, in designing assessment tools and evaluating assessment data, we should take care to recognize the dynamics of power and oppression that are woven into common standards for teaching and learning. Part of this is an expectation that we will decenter whiteness as the norm or standard for assessment. 
  3. Assessment should be rooted in critical inquiry, meaning we should reject the objectivity myth and acknowledge the subjectivity and bias of those conducting assessment. To combat subjectivity, we should vary the types of evidence collected to avoid privileging certain kinds of knowledge and/or demonstrations of knowledge.

Additionally, equitable assessment requires that we disaggregate data to examine structural inequities based on the privileging of some forms of learning over others. It also means that we must be willing to oversample minoritized populations to ensure they are fully represented in our assessment activities. This may mean welcoming smaller sample sizes than we might otherwise prefer because they can reveal diverse experiences of learning in the university.

Resources for Promoting Equitable Assessment as Central to Inclusive Pedagogy

Inclusive Pedagogy
This website from the University of Chicago Center for Teaching introduces Inclusive Pedagogy and offers a wide range of tools useful for building inclusive classroom teaching and assessment practices.  (University of Chicago Inclusive Pedagogy).

Universal Design
This website connects universal design and assessment. More specifically, it outlines a rationale for constructing multiple means of engagement, expression, and representation, meaning that every student will have ample opportunity to demonstrate what they’ve learned. It also offers strategies for designing assessments that are more “relevant,” meaning the assessment tool assesses actual learning rather than factors that are “irrelevant” to the lesson (e.g., motor skills, time management, attention, or ability to work under pressure). (UDL on Campus)

Transparency in Learning and Teaching
This website introduces the TILT method of assignment design. Here, TILT stands for Transparency in Learning and Teaching. This project offers instructors tools for building transparency into assignment prompts and assessment tools. It can also be used for norming assignments across multiple courses in a program. (TILT Higher Ed)

Alternative Forms of Grading
The following websites and articles offer alternatives for doing classroom-based assessment. 

National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA)
The National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) is the national leader in research on learning outcomes assessment. NILOA offers a wide range of free resources promoting the “systematic use of learning outcomes assessment to improve student learning.” (NILOA Homepage)

Case Studies – Equity in Assessment
NILOA has recently shifted much of its research toward questions of equity in assessment. The produced a series of case studies  that offer insight into how different institutions have addressed equity in their assessment practices. 

Additionally, two recent NILOA reports offer insight into building equitable assessment practices:

Questions or comments?
Please contact the Office of the Provost (253)535-7126 or provost@plu.edu