Culturally responsive assessment
I am interested in thinking my way through the issue of culturally responsive (or appropriate) assessment of student learning. As scholars such as Hare (2011), Marker (2006), and Bowers, Vasquez, and Roaf, (2000) suggest, the tools we use in learning environments are culturally biased, i.e., we privilege certain tools and strategies that are congruent with a particular worldview. For example, quantitative assessment tools such as surveys are scientific and fit a Western, reasoned approach to education.
However, do quantitative approaches to assessing student learning fit with an Indigenous view of education that favours observation, listening and doing (Hare, 2011)? Where knowledge is transferred orally, through stories, from elders to young people? I hope to have at least some answers to these questions by the time I finish my research project (and maybe identify some tools to try).
To begin my research journey, I have looked for resources related to assessment of Indigenous student learning. I have already done some research on culturally responsive/inclusive pedagogy so I decided that I would wait to circle back to this broader topic. I am interested in Canadian materials as well as international resources, particularly those from Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia where I know that educational research and practice is evolving—sometimes faster than it is here in Canada. The following five resources seem like a good place to start.
Bowers, C.A., Vasquez, M., & Roaf, M. (2000). Native people and the challenge of computers: Reservation schools, individualism, and consumerism. American Indian Quarterly, 24(2), 182-199. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/journal/amerindiquar
Hare, J. (2011). Learning from Indigenous knowledge in education. In D. Long & O. P. Dickason (Eds.), Visions of the heart. Canadian Aboriginal issues (3rd ed.). Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press.
Marker, M. (2006). After the Makah whale hunt. Indigenous knowledge and limits of multicultural discourse. Urban Education, 41(5), 482-505.
Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)
The mission of the ACER is to support the development of learning environments by providing “research-based knowledge, products and services” (2017). In the area of assessment, ACER researchers have created a number of assessment products which might not be accessible to me. However, They publish an Indigenous education update (the latest in 2016) as well as an article of related to assessment in higher education. Given that Australia has a similar colonial history to Canada, some of the materials available through the CREA might suggest approaches or tools that might be transferable to a Canadian context, or provide alternatives that might suggest new pathways to developing appropriate assessment strategies. The site does not seem to link to those of other organizations.
Canadian Education Association
The Canadian Education Association is a national organization of educators that supports pedagogical research and innovation that will lead to “deeply engaging learning environments (n.d.). The CEA has produced a number of publications related to integrating Indigenous knowledge and worldviews into learning environments such as Land-based learning: A case study report for educators tasked with integrating Indigenous Worldviews into classrooms (2017) and a 2014 article in the online magazine entitled The culturally responsive classroom. A proactive approach to diversity in Canadian schools. A search for assessment-related materials brings up a number of resources that may be useful to understanding general approaches to assessment in Canadian schools—finding Canadian content can sometimes be a challenge. However, the site does not seem to link to that of other organizations.
Centre for culturally responsive evaluation and assessment (CREA)
The CREA is located at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne. Researchers at the centre recognize the need to explore and develop forms of educational evaluation and assessment that respect and reflect the impact of culture on learning. The CREA published a reading list online where literature is categorized according to several themes:
- Cultural competence in evaluation
- Culturally responsive evaluator
- Multiculturalism and cultural competence in evaluation
This area of research, emerged in part, out of the American scholarship on culturally responsive instruction. The work of scholars such as Gloria Ladson-Billings has been influential internationally in this area and I think the bibliography will be a good source of academic literature that will provide a foundation for an evidence-based approach to this topic.
National monitoring study of student achievement
Based on research that I have done on library schools in Aotearoa New Zealand, I have the impression that educators in that country may be more progressive in terms of practicing culturally responsive education. The national study is based out of the University of Ortago and assesses the performance of primary school students. One of the principles of the study is to recognize and take into account “identity, language and culture” and track the progress of Maori and Pasifika students. As such, publications and resources may provide some insight into the design and characteristics of forms of assessment that are considered culturally responsive/relevant, although a national program would not scale down to my work.
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD): Programme for International Student Assessment
As described on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) website, the PISA is a triennial international survey designed to “evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year old students.” Students from more than 70 countries took the test in 2015 and were tested for the following literacies:
- Collaborative problem solving
This approach to assessing student performance is relevant in that it might represent a Western approach to understanding learning, i.e., a dominant paradigm. As such, it might serve as a baseline for culturally biased assessment and provide access to statistics from a wide range of jurisdictions.