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Promoting Equity in Assessment

Session 6
Marc Ottaviani, Tricia Stanley — Williamsburg High School for Arts and Technology

When implicit biases are not guarded against, how we assess can unintentionally promote racial inequity. One of the areas most wrought with implicit bias is the inclusion of habits of work and academic behaviors in our assessment systems. When how and what we assess is not transparent or culturally relevant to students, our implicit biases can cause us to grade unfairly. Furthermore, the reliance on habits of work and academic behaviors in assessment systems can potentially foster compliance and dependence instead of independence and critical thinking. This is particularly true for students of color that have been historically oppressed. We suggest that teachers only assess content comprehension and skill acquisition and invite students into the assessment process. We will explore how culturally relevant classrooms place the student in the center of the lesson in order to break the replication of society’s racist power dynamic. In this session, participants will be guided through a series of interactions about assessment and bias. We will ask participants to reflect on their own beliefs and assumptions around assessment, to discuss both the value of specific academic behaviors as well as the ramifications of removing academic behaviors from grading. Finally, we want participants to question how implicit bias affects their own classrooms and their systems of assessment.

Conversational Practice

Participants will contribute to a variety of conversations around implicit bias, equity in assessment, and culturally relevant pedagogy.

We will begin the session with a “silent conversation,” wherein participants collectively write on a large piece of bulletin board paper to capture their thoughts and interact with one another around three questions: “What do we assess?” “How do we assess?” “Why do we assess?” The conversational aspect of this activity occurs in the participants’ reactions to what is being written. They will be encouraged to interact with one another silently by commenting on what is written, to add follow up questions, and to identify common understandings and agreement.

After the silent conversation commences, participants will circle up and discuss similarities and themes they notice in the responses. At this point, teachers will be introduced or reminded of the idea of implicit bias through a very short video or piece of excerpted text. After, participants will be asked to reflect on how their own implicit biases around race, gender, and ethnicity might affect the way that they assess and grade their students.

Once the idea of implicit bias is introduced, participants will take part in a small group table activity designed to push their thinking around what types of assessments are equitable and what types of assessments could be problematic in reinforcing existing power structures. Next, teachers will be asked to participate in a “Take a Side” activity. We will provide statements about traditional methods of assessment and ask participants to “take a side.” Each participant either has to agree or disagree with the statement and defend their choice. This activity encourages participants to listen to a diverse collection of perspectives and engage in multiple narratives.

Lastly, participants will circle back up and discuss the following questions: How does implicit bias affect the way in which we assess? Can we prevent implicit bias from affecting our assessment?

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