For the course I am taking "Assessing and Evaluating for Learning", I have been asked to consider the implications of cultural diversity and assessment.
What factors need to be considered?
I grew up as a student and educator in a culture that prized reading and writing, and where assessment revolved (and still does) around written essays and exams. As a midwifery educator I have carried on this approach - a midwife's role depends and relies heavily on the ability to document decisions, assessments and actions thus I have used written assessment as a means of developing students' skills in writing.
One of the challenges midwifery education has faced in New Zealand is how to recruit and retain Maori women. Keeping in mind what Lesley Remaka (2007) has said about how Maori children learn ie in an oral and community environment, the question has to be: does education fail people of other cultures in how we assess them? Should we not be looking at alternative ways of assessing people who have ways of learning that do not 'fit' in with the reading/writing approach to learning? If cultural groups learn together as communities, should they not be assessed in the same way? If their culture of an oral one...again, should not assessment be carried out in a similar way?
At the same time, we also need to ensure that student of different cultures are prepared by the education system to work in the dominant culture of New Zealand. In other words, the student has to be able to function as a midwife who can document extensively in English. A tension I think that I would like to hear more about from you.
Assessing people of cultural diversity?
I have made mention of Maori students, but the fact in New Zealand is that we are a multi-cultural society rather than bi-cultural, and as educators we are faced with many learning styles and needs so how much of an 'ask' is it for educators to consider all cultires when designing assessment? Sure, be flexible and indiviudal but how does that work in reality?
Being aware of cultural diversity has become even more important for me to consider as I facilitate my first open online course, Facilitating Online. There are a range of informal students in the course who not only live in other parts of the world, but have languages other than English as their first language. Time zones and language differences will disadvantage them when it comes to assessment. They may also suffer more subtle disadvantages because of the lack of understanding that teachers in New Zealand may have of their cultural context in their home land.
Benefits to the learner
As an educator having an awareness of cultural diversity and cultural attitudes to learning has got to ultimately benefit the learner. Whilst you may not be able to angle every piece of assessment to individual students and learning styles, a greater awareness of differences should underpin your development of assessment.
One example I can think of is Asian students' attitudes to plagiarism. I have been told that Asian students copy people's because they honor the words of older, wiser people - they think it is disrespectful to question. However, as the educator, I would mark this copying down...severely. Therefore, it is my responsibility to support students to turn around their attitude to plagiarism and develop their skills of critical thinking. Another strategy may be to mix students of different cultural groups so they start to understand each others' different perspectives and support each other through assessment processes.
What strategies do you use when developing assessment for students who come from different cultures?
ACTION. (2009). Assessment an cultrual diversity. Retrieved 10th September, 2009, from http://www.action.ncca.ie/en/intercultural-education/intercultural-education-in-the-primary-school/assessment-and-cultural-diversity
Remaka, L. (2007). Maroi approaches to assessment. Canadian Journal of Native Education. 30, 1: 126-144.
University of Melbourne. (2006). Encouraging Inclusive Practice in Teaching, Learning and Assessment. retrieved 10 September, 2009, from http://www.unimelb.edu.au/diversity/downloads/inclusive%20practice.pdf
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