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IMPACT In Action - Equity Throughout the Term

By Jennifer Ackerman posted 07-27-2020 13:40:02


Throughout the term, and particularly near the end of the term, assessing the learning of students becomes a crucial aspect of any learning environment and presents new challenges in the online environment. Changing assessment practices has been difficult for our field, which tends to rely on high-stakes exams to determine course grades. Indeed, when the pandemic first hit, our field became focused mainly on high-stakes testing and how to effectively proctor exams. However, there are other forms of assessment promoted in IMPACT that can be used throughout the term, including diagnostic assessment and formative assessment, that serve to monitor student performance, provide feedback on their learning, and communicate our expectations.    

In the shift to the online environment, increased vigilance over academic integrity can come into conflict with the equitable assessment of student learning outcomes. Do we consider the options for proctoring through an equity lens? Are we actually measuring student learning or privilege? Overall, how can we leverage the online environment to improve assessment practices to become more equitable?





09-04-2020 15:49:49

Jennifer, Thank you for following up on my summer group exam experiment. I will be taking the same approach next term given the constraints of the pandemic. An example of a "group-worthy" question is at the end so people can see what types of questions I asked. Each problem is worth 10 points graded using rubrics developed by AACU. 5 points are possible for correct and comprehensive concepts used and 5 points for correct and comprehensive calculations. When I compared results on Exam 1, 2, and a comprehensive Final to a past quarter (Fall 2019) when I gave individual exams, the results were comparable. It's important to remember that in the group exam, students can access any resources exam human resources other than me or their group members. In each case, the exam scores were slightly left skewed. But not so much so that the mean and standard deviation are too out of alignment with reality. Here are the results showing the mean and standard deviation: 

Group Exam 1   81% (SD = 15)   
Individual Exam 1  88%  (SD = 10)

Group Exam 2  86%  (SD = 14) 
Individual Exam 2  81% (SD = 18)

Group Exam 3 - comprehensive final  80% (SD = 12)
Individual Exam 3 - comprehensive final  82% (SD = 16)

Here's an example of a normal curve problem. 

Problem 2:  Normal Curve


According to a study by the World Health Organization, 1 year old girls’ heights and weights are normally distributed.  The information for each is below


HEIGHT of 1-year-old girls is normally distributed

Mean height:  59 cm Standard deviation height:  2.1 cm

 WEIGHTS of 1-year-old girls are normally distributed:

Mean weight:  5.7 kg                          Standard deviation of weight:   0.13 kg

Use this information to determine the range of heights and weights that would be considered common for a 1-year-old girl. For full credit, clearly state your answer and provide statistical reasons that are comprehensive in using the Empirical Rule and Z scores for normal curves

A 1-year old girl visits the doctor. Her height is 62 centimeters and her weight is 5.4 kilograms. Is this girl common or rare? For full credit, clearly state your answer and provide statistical reasons that are comprehensive in using the Empirical Rule and Z scores for normal curves.


09-04-2020 15:07:03

I am glad to read the comparison of testing to policing.  My time away from proctoring in a seated environment has allowed me to reflect on the environment I was creating.  I look forward in trying to create a different environment, though I really don't know what that will look like.  

Recently, I gave a pre-calculus test online and I tried some thing different.  Students were given randoms numbers in their problems and if they didn't like the numbers they got then they could get a new randomization.  I hope this allowed students the opportunity to get a problem that they could answer.  I also hope that it removed my own bias of selecting numbers that are easy for some but hard for others.

09-01-2020 16:01:18

Helen, I'm working on some alternative assessments for the fall. How did your "summer experiment" go? Any insights or suggestions from what you've learned?

07-31-2020 11:32:58

In Washington state, the transition to remote instruction occurred as we transitioned from winter to spring term. When I heard all the online chatter about browser lockdowns, etc., I decided I couldn't take part in these policing practices. Instead, I decided to make my 3 major exams group exams. I looked at it like an experiment. I completely changed the type of questions I asked so that they were all open ended and graded on a rubric that separately evaluated concepts used and calculations conducted. I'm running this "experiment" again this summer in my courses.

07-30-2020 10:31:02

One thing the pandemic made clear to me is the tendency for assessments to reflect and measure privilege rather than comprehension, and to assume the worst of students rather than the best. As the old forms of assessment are retained and platforms are made to police the process, I rarely heard any insights into re-imagining assessment. I noticed that the discussion for online assessment veered away from designing valid and creative assessments for the online environment to focus instead on creating systems to maintain the old assessments with tighter enforcement (academic policing if you will). Discussions on how to proctor in an online environment became the hot topic to "safe guard against academic dishonesty," eclipsing any discussion that could be more reflective on what our assessments might actually measure and how to measure the outcomes we say we want. I myself admit that I am uncertain how to improve assessments to measure learning rather than privilege; however, I think focusing the discussion on this goal could yield more fruit than trying to lock down browsers and videotape students. Ideas towards this end are welcome!