01 SES 04 C, Systemic Professional Engagement and On-line Approaches
The topic of this paper is an online professional development course in culturally responsive assessment for the teaching staff of a university. The paper addresses the research question: What is an appropriate professional development course for the academic staff of a University involved in the assessment of students from varied cultural backgrounds?
The objective of this project was to create a suitable professional development course for Faculty in a university that has students from diverse cultural backgrounds. In developing such a suitable course online, the course was made available for staff in other universities that similarly are involved in the assessment of students from a range of cultural backgrounds. The literature that informs the course is drawn from several countries on different continents. This implies that culturally responsive assessment is an issue in many countries and it is argued therefore that this online course may be relevant to Faculty in different parts of the world.
Bledsoe and Donaldson (2015) state that the call for cultural responsiveness “has reached a deafening crescendo” (p. 7). The call has several bases: the migration of peoples, globalisation which Portera (2008) claims is resulting in populations observing and participating in cultures different from their own (p. 481).
There are several reasons that a university may have students from diverse cultural backgrounds. Enrolment might include students from a minority culture in their own country, students who travel to a university as a temporary immigrant or students who might be permanent residents in a country as first or second generation immigrants. In Ireland we are experiencing immigration from countries quite different culturally from ours. We have students from a migrant background at each level of the education system and an increasing number of international students at tertiary level. Indeed, most Universities are expanding to potential international students.
The literature indicates that the academic achievement of students of minority cultural backgrounds has been marred by assessment that was not culturally responsive. While there are legal requirements such as the International law on the Rights of Minorities, the literature emphasises the moral demand for fairness and the desirability of diversity. As assessment drives learning, it is important that assessment is culturally responsive for all students. It is particularly important that lecturers and supervisors in universities with students from diverse cultural backgrounds are aware of the dimensions of culture that impact on learning (Rothstein-Fisch & Trumbull, 2008 pp. 1-2). Culturally responsive assessment is defined as assessment that takes cognisance of these dimensions of culture that impact on student learning and assessment.
In response to this call to action and as a project funded by the Institute of Education in Dublin City University, researchers at the centre, Evaluation, Quality and Inspection, developed an online course. In alignment with the principles of adult learning, the course combines information from literature on culturally responsive assessment with opportunity for professional reflection and skill development. Thus, the course is an opportunity for higher education personnel to engage in a scaffolded opportunity to design culturally responsive assessment in their own disciplines based on insight gleaned from the relevant literature. This format facilitated participants in reflecting on their level of learning and level of skill in designing culturally responsive assessment in their own disciplines. The online format supported professional development for University personnel who are extremely busy as they could access the course in their own time and at their own pace.
The method firstly surveyed literature to glean insights to guide the information, refection and skill development. The literature suggests that, for culturally responsive assessment, studies do not “offer formulas but they do offer insights” (Hollins, 1993 p. 98). Culturally responsive assessment requires “new thinking and practices” (Hood, Hopson & Frierson, 2015, p.xv). Drawing on a range of literature found in Europe and Northern America, key elements were constructed for information and reflection: a definition and reflection on culture (OECD, 2016), a definition of multicultural validity (LaFrance, Kirkhart & Nichols, 2015), a consideration of construct validity (Messick,1989,1995), language issues (Cummins, 2015), dimensions of cultural difference Parrish & Linder-VanBerschot (2010), and lecturers as researchers of their students (Moll et al, 1992) and of themselves (Bennett, 2009). The course provides participants with a method for acquiring information about student history of engagement in epistemology, teacher-student relationships and language experience (Hofstede, 2001; Parrish &Linder-VanBerschot, 2010). It is suggested that this method heightens all students’ awareness of their own cultural-historical experience of learning and assessment. This method also provides lecturers and students with a basis for discussion and negotiation of expectations. Participants of the course are encouraged to appreciate the significance of a student’s first language as it is the source of a student’s identity and conceptual knowledge (Luciak, 2010). Practical implications for the role of the lecturer in facilitating student access to conceptual knowledge are drawn. The American Evaluation Association’s (2011) statement on cultural competence is used for the daunting task of reflecting on one’s own enculturation and professional practice in assessment. Methods or questions for this self-reflection are offered by some authors (Hollins, 2015; Symonette, 2015). A synthesis of some literature is proferred to suggest criteria for culturally responsive assessment followed by assessment modes that are considered to have potential to be culturally fair. These are used as a basis for participants to then design assessment instruments in their own disciplines and to assess their designs against the criteria. The course finally asks participants to assess their own learning from the beginning of the course. Following the initial design period, the course was piloted with twelve randomly selected staff from the Institute of Education from varied disciplines and with different levels of experience in higher education. The piloting process saw each participant complete the online course and respond to a structured written interview schedule.
The need for culturally responsive assessment and supervision for the academic staff of the Institute of Education in Dublin City University is indisputable. This need is similar for the Faculty of any university with students from a diverse cultural background. The need raises the question of the most effective and feasible method of increasing the knowledge and skill of academics to meet the situation. This paper reports on one attempt to progress that with the recognition that educated adults who are motivated to increase their capacity essentially need exposure to expert information and opportunity for reflection and skill development. The initial findings of the pilot group of participants suggest that the course was greeted very positively and for many was “an eye opener” to the issues surrounding culture and assessment. In addition to comments on the technical aspects of the programme, three key themes emerged from the pilot group with the most significant being the changes to professional practice as a result of the course. . The majority view is reflected in the comment: I found this course fascinating. It really made me aware of my own views and beliefs and how they impact on the way I assess my students. I can't see how we are going to develop a fair and equal system if we don't learn to look at culture when we are thinking about assessment. The challenge to their own enculturation was acknowledged as well as the challenge for resources and time. Participants claimed that they need much more training to be proficient in designing culturally responsive assessment. We draw the conclusion that, within its limitations, the online course can support Faculty in becoming informed on the insights from the literature on culturally responsive assessment and in adapting practice in order to design culturally responsive assessment.
American Evaluation Association (AEA) (2011).Statement on Cultural Competence on Evaluation. Retrieved from http://www.eval.org/p/cm/ld/fid=92 Bennett, J. M. (2009). Cultivating Intercultural Competence. In D. K. Deardorff, (Ed.). The Sage Handbook of Intercultural Competence (pp. 121-140). Sage. Cummins, J. (2015). Intercultural education and academic achievement: a framework for school-based policies in multilingual schools. Intercultural Education. 26(6), 455-468. doi: 10.1080/14675986.2015.1103539 DeBacker, F., Van Avermaet, P. & Slembrouck, S. (2017). Schools as laboratories for exploring multilingual assessment policies and practice. Language and Education 31(3), 217-230. doi.org.dcu.idm.oclc.org/10.1080/09500782.2016.1261896 Hofstede, G.H. (2001). Culture’s Consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions and organizations across nations (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Hollins, E.R. (1993). Assessing Teacher Competence for Diverse Populations. Theory into Practice. 32 (2), 93-99. Taylor and Francis. doi: 10.1080/00405849309543581 Hood, S., Hopson, R & Frierson, H. (Eds.). (2015). Introduction: This is where we continue to stand. In S. Hood, R. Hopson & H. Frierson. Continuing the Journey to Reposition Culture and Cultural Context in Evaluation Theory and Practice. (pp. Ix – xviii). Evaluation and Society series. Charlotte, NC. Information Age Publishing. LaFrance, J., Kirkhart, K. E. & Nichols, R. (2015). Cultural Views of Validity: A Conversation. In S. Hood, R. Hopson & H. Frierson (Eds.). Continuing the Journey to Reposition Culture and Cultural Context in Evaluation Theory and Practice. (pp. 49-72). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing. Luciak, M. (2010). Educating teachers for diversity: Meeting the challenge. On diversity in educational contexts. In: Centre for Educational Research and Innovation. OECD/CERI, (pp. 41- 62). Paris: OECD. Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/edu/ceri/educatingteachersfordiversitymeetingthechallenge.htm Messick, S. (1989).Validity. In R. L. Linn (Ed.). Educational Measurement, (3rd ed.). (pp. 13–103). New York: Macmillan Moll, L. C., Amanti, C., Neff, D. & González, N. (1992). Funds of knowledge for teaching: Using a qualitative approach to connect homes and classrooms. Theory Into Practice, 31, 132–141 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).(2016). Global competency for an inclusive world. Paris: OECD. Retrieved from https://www.oecd.org/education/Global-competency-for-an-inclusive-world.pdf Parrish, P. & Linder-VanBerschot, J. A. (2010). Cultural dimensions of learning: Addressing the challenges of multicultural instruction. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning 11(2), 1-19. Retrieved from www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/viewFile/809/1553 Portera, A. (2008). Intercultural education in Europe: epistemological and semantic aspects. Intercultural Education 19 (6), 481 – 491 doi: 10.1080/14675980802568277
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