Fairness and Equity Considerations When Creating and Administering Assessments: Part 2

Thursday, May 9, 2013 -- Shane Dennison

A fair assessment is one in which students are given equitable opportunities to demonstrate what they know (Lam, 1995). Does this mean that all students should be treated exactly the same? No! Equitable assessment means that students are assessed using methods and procedures most appropriate to them (Suskie, 2000).

Steps that can be taken to help reach equitable assessment administration:

  • Match your assessment to what you teach and vice versa. Consider utilizing a solid balance between CCSS & state/local standards. Be sure to communicate to your students “how” you define good writing in order to help students develop their skills.
  • Have clearly stated learning outcomes. And share them with your students (Suskie, 2000). An upfront list of goals/expectations (with rubric if appropriate) could help their self-confidence and eventual performances.
  • Use many different measures. One of the most troubling trends in education today is the increased use of a high-stakes assessment, often a standardized multiple-choice test, as the sole or primary factor in a significant decision, such as passing a course, graduating, or becoming certified. Given all we know about the inaccuracies of any assessment, how can we say with confidence that someone scoring, say a 90%, is competent and someone scoring an 89% is not? (Suskie, 2000).
  • Help students learn how to do the assessment task. For instance, distribute past student projects that you consider to meet all expectations. The more upfront and background support you can give your students throughout the project or assignment process, the more likely they will succeed.
  • Engage and encourage your students. The performance of "field-dependent" students, those who tend to think more holistically than analytically, is greatly influenced by faculty expressions of confidence in their ability (Anderson, 1988). Positive contact with faculty may help students of non-European cultures, in particular, achieve their full potential (Fleming,1998).
  • Interpret assessment results appropriately. Student's responses should be compared to a standard instead of their classmates or students outside their classroom.  Also, consider making assessment judgments that surround ‘next course’ criteria or background knowledge and skills to succeed in the next required course.
  • Evaluate the outcomes of your assessments. If your students don’t do well on a particular assessment, ask them why. Sometimes your question or prompt isn’t clear; sometimes you may find that you simply didn’t teach a concept well. Revise your assessment tools, your pedagogy, or both, and your assessments are bound to be fairer the next time that you use them (Suskie, 2000).

Much of the above thinking has been circulated amongst educators for decades. Yet, several of the thoughts above have actually been initiated in real classroom situations.

Stay tuned for Part 3: Encouraging All Levels of Educators and Standardized Assessment Creators to Abide by Fairness and Equity Considerations.