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This post was co-authored by Dr. Monsurat Raji and Dr. David Baidoo-Anu, Assessment of Learning Consultants.

As postsecondary schools continue to educate a more diverse student population, there is an increased need to ensure every student has the opportunity for success, regardless of their social, economic, educational, and cultural background and differences.  

A group of students with diverse backgrounds.

What is Socio-Culturally Responsive Assessment?

Socio-Culturally Responsive Assessment (SCRA) includes assessment tasks that connect to the cultural identity, background, and lived experiences of all students, and allows forms of expression and representation in problem presentation and solution that help students show what they know and can do.  

(Bennett, 2022)

Socio-Culturally Responsive Assessment (SCRA) is an approach to assessing students that considers student diversity from three elements: 

(1) the visible elements that make students identifiable to a specific group(s), including behaviours, practices, customs, roles, attitudes, appearance, expressions of identity, language, housing region, heritage, race/ethnicity, rituals, religion, disability, economic class, age.  

(2) the non-visible elements, which include students’ beliefs, values, ethics, gender identity, sexual orientation, common experiences (e.g., military veterans and foster children), and social identity.  

(3) the cognitive elements such as students’ knowledge acquisition and expression, cognition, communication, perceptions of self and others, work ethic, collaboration, etc. (Montenegro & Jankowski, 2017). 

Intersectionality 

Intersectionality is when a student holds multiple identities visible, non-visible, and cognitive – that cannot be fully separated from one another and play a central role in their assessment experiences (Jones & McEwen, 2000). This could mean that a student in your course may have multiple dimensions of identity (e.g., race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, religion).

For example, a White male student who identifies as a member of the 2SLGBTQIA community and practices Judaism is shaped by the intersectionality of these elements. The intersectionality of racial, social, and economic elements shapes a Latina student who is a single mother from a low socioeconomic background. An international student straight from high school will demonstrate learning differently than a Canadian student from high school. An English as a second language, first-generation student will experience College, acquire knowledge, and demonstrate knowledge differently than an international English as a second language first-generation student.

It is important to note that assessments that respond to students’ diverse identities, backgrounds, and experiences are more likely to lead to student success. Here are some examples of assessments that are not socio-culturally responsive because they do not consider students’ diverse identities, backgrounds, and experiences. 

Example 1: 

A math test with lengthy instructions that require students to interpret complex linguistic features.

Why is this assessment not socio-culturally responsive? 

In this test, students’ language proficiency is being assessed, not their math skills, which will disadvantage students whose main language is not English or who do not have reading skills at the level questions are written.

Example 2: 

A timed online sociology quiz for a class of young adults where the responses depend on students’ recognizing pop culture celebrities in Canada. 

Why is this assessment not socio-culturally responsive?

The design of this quiz indicates conscious or unconscious bias on the part of the designer, who made assumptions about the age of students without considering their social and cultural background, interests, and access to technology. 

Example 3: 

An online quiz requires students to download the free trial of an interactive video polling tool. The tool requires heavy use of bandwidth. Students will end up paying a monthly fee for access if they forget to cancel the free trial. 

Why is this assessment not socio-culturally responsive? 

This quiz presupposes that all students have easy access to affordable internet and financial privilege. Requiring students to purchase an app to complete a quiz is not only unresponsive to their needs, but it potentially violates accessibility purposes of assessment. 

Looking ahead: Removing barriers 

One of the most effective ways you can remove barriers to student success through assessments is to design and implement socio-culturally responsive assessment practices. The follow-up Hub post will discuss strategies that may assist you in the design and implementation of fair and equitable assessment practices that recognize and value the unique perspectives and experiences of all students. 

Works Cited 

Bennett, R. (2022). Socioculturally Responsive Assessment: What is it and What Does it Look Like? Virtual presentation at the Learning Sciences Research Institute and Department of Educational Psychology, University of Illinois Chicago. Retrieved from Mono vs. Multiculturalism (uic.edu)  

Designing and Developing High-Quality Student-Centred Online/Hybrid Learning Experiences: Culturally-responsive Assessments. University of Regina. Retrieved from Culturally Responsive Assessments – Designing and Developing High Quality Student-Centred Online/Hybrid Learning Experiences (uregina.ca) 

Jones, S. R., & McEwen, M. K. (2000). A conceptual model of multiple dimensions of identity. Journal of College Student Development, 41, 405–414. 

Montenegro, E., & Jankowski, N. A. (2017). 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). 

Monsurat Raji

Monsurat completed her Doctoral program in Education at the University of Ottawa, Canada, with a focus on Educational Assessment and Teaching Pedagogies. She has an M.Ed. (with thesis) from the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg; M.Sc. in Educational Research Methods, Assessment, and Evaluation from Liverpool Hope University, Liverpool, United Kingdom, and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Education (Educational Assessment & Evaluation) and Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from University of Ilorin, Nigeria. She recently completed a Graduate Certificate in University Teaching and Learning from the University of Ottawa, and has facilitated teaching, learning, and assessment workshops for graduate students, newly recruited faculty, instructors, and tenured faculty members. She brings her international education background and career experience derived from studying, teaching, and consulting in different education systems and levels to work at Conestoga’s Teaching and Learning Department.

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