Equity in Assessment

Equitable assessment proceeds from the recognition that the cultures of universities and colleges have frequently made it difficult for students from underrepresented, minoritized, or working class backgrounds to fully engage with higher learning. To center the collegiate experience more on the needs of all students, assessment grounded in equity emphasize the following principles and practices (Jankowski & Montenegro, 2020):

Students as partners

The best way to check potential biases in teaching and curricular practices is to involve students in the assessment process, and include them as co-constructors of their learning environments. Including the voices of historically marginalized students in this process of co-creating their learning experiences is especially important, to ensure that they have fair opportunities to develop and demonstrate their knowledge throughout a program. 

Data disaggregation, exploration, and action

Important aspects of meaningful disaggregation include assessing the data on hand from previous assessments, determining what can realistically be done with it, and developing questions to further investigate. Using this knowledge, creating an assessment plan that stretches over several years allows for a detailed exploration and meaningful assessment of student characteristics. Because equity-minded assessment is responsive to student needs when they need it, there is no sample size that is considered too small to encourage action; and when dealing with small samples, rich qualitative exploration of the learning process is a more productive approach than isolated quantitative comparisons with benchmarks that lack context. 

Context-specific approaches and responses

Incorporating students in equity-minded assessment processes supports learning goals and overarching student success, with the focus of targeting larger issues the institution needs to address, or is already addressing. For example, including student voices when developing learning outcomes can help ensure that students – the primary audience for learning outcomes – see a clear path from the knowledge they bring to a program to the knowledge they will ultimately gain from it. 

Embedding equitable practices throughout the assessment cycle

In order to help every student succeed, it is imperative that assessment processes and practices are appropriate and equitable for all students. Although it may seem challenging to encapsulate the differences and needs of diverse student populations, equitable assessment calls for the complete examination of changes with data collected to improve student learning which are done in ways that do not privilege certain students over others. This could include the creation of contexts and curriculum that respond to social, political, cultural, and educational needs. By validating and incorporating student experiences into assessment, it enhances data quality by providing multifaceted and credible data that can be used to sustain future equitable assessments. 

Resources on equitable assessment practices: