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National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment

Occasional Paper 29 - Equity and Assessment: Moving Towards Culturally Responsive Assessment


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Montenegro, E., & Jankowski, N. A. (2017, January). Equity and assessment: Moving towards culturally responsive assessment. (Occasional Paper No. 29). Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA).



In NILOA’s twenty-ninth occasional paper, authors Erick Montenegro and Natasha A. Jankowski discuss the important role equity and cultural responsiveness have in assessment.

Paper Abstract

As colleges educate a more diverse and global student population, there is increased need to ensure every student succeeds regardless of their differences. This paper explores the relationship between equity and assessment, addressing the question: how consequential can assessment be to learning when assessment approaches may not be inclusive of diverse learners? The paper argues that for assessment to meet the goal of improving student learning and authentically documenting what students know and can do, a culturally responsive approach to assessment is needed. In describing what culturally responsive assessment entails, this paper offers a rationale as to why change is necessary, proposes a way to conceptualize the place of students and culture in assessment, and introduces three ways to help make assessment more culturally responsive.

Biography of the Authors

Erick Montenegro is a doctoral student in the Education Policy, Organization and  Leadership program at the University of Illinois. Erick received a dual B.S. in  Marketing and Business Administration with a concentration in International  Business, and an Ed.M. in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership with a  concentration in Higher Education both from the University of Illinois. His research interests include issues  of equity in assessment, student learning outcomes assessment at  Minority-Serving Institutions, and issues affecting access to higher education for students of color.




Natasha Jankowski is Director and Research Assistant Professor with the Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, has presented at numerous  national conferences and institutional events, and written various reports for NILOA. Her main research interests include assessment and evaluation, organizational evidence use, and evidence-based storytelling. She holds a PhD in Higher Education from the University of Illinois, an M.A. in Higher Education Administration from Kent State University, and a B.A. in philosophy from Illinois State University. She previously worked for GEAR UP Learning Centers at Western Michigan University and worked with the Office of Community College Research and Leadership studying community colleges and public policy.



For more information on the impetus for equity in assessment through an exploration of assessment practices at Minority-Serving Institutions, please read this 2015 NILOA report by Erick Montenegro and Natasha Jankowski.

Montenegro, E., & Jankowski, N. A. (2015, April). Focused on What Matters: Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes at Minority-Serving Institutions.

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