More attention to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts is needed within higher education.
We need to develop more awareness and reframe our perspectives to think from a lens that centers equity. We have the power to further inquire, examine, and intervene to move toward equitable outcomes for students.
Assessment can be one way to do so. Data can inform us of gaps or areas to focus on for improvement. And, when paired with student demographic information, assessment data can identify inequitable experiences occurring among students.
With a more intentional approach, assessment can be a mechanism to further educational equity for students. But before getting into actionable steps or recommendations, let’s establish some key terminology.
For purposes of this blog, I will present some key concepts with a working definition in relation to assessment. Any and all of these terms have considerable research and scholarship on them; I’ve linked a few below if you’d like to learn more.
Equity is justice according to needs and fairness. It goes beyond equality in which everyone is treated the same.
In order to help all students achieve equivalent learning outcomes, more support and different conditions may be required for some students compared to others — in light of systematic barriers and experienced disadvantages. Equity isn’t about a one-size-fits-all approach; to be equitable in our work, we must serve the students where they are according to their needs.
Agency is the ability to exercise will and power to act purposefully toward goals. Agency pertains to the ability to act; while everyone has will and could act, it’s often a matter of space created, empowerment, and self-motivation that determine if agency will be employed or enacted.
Our students have great potential for agency beyond what they’re typically afforded. Faculty, staff, and administrators could exponentially enable student agency via the inclusion of students as co-collaborators and advocates for institutional action.
Bias refers to conscious and unconscious favors and influences for or against someone or something.
Bias should be a familiar term to you already, but I want to point out that bias is not always positive or negative. Someone can be biased toward all students having access to higher education just as someone else can be biased toward prohibiting access to certain students based on their identities.
Positionality is how identity (including role and status) can shape, influence, or bias one’s perspective.
Positionality means that our identities and experiences influence the way we view our world and move through it. Positionality can encompass (and even be a starting point to) identifying and unpacking our biases.
Methodological diversity pertains to using multiple forms of measurement to capture diverse ways of knowing. The term can be a mouthful, but the most important thing to realize is that methodological diversity is about two things: Using multiple measures or methods for measurement and capturing learning in different ways (such as qualitative vs quantitative or direct vs indirect).