In this chapter the authors describe a method developed to assess the outcome of a “cultural familiarity” general education goal. Challenges in defining, measuring, and providing summary information on variables of interest are discussed. We review the process of developing our own “oral examination” assessment method, explain our rationale for using this particular method, and suggest that locallydeveloped methods – this one and others – may have particular benefits that make them especially useful for program review and revision. In addition, we provide insight about how this specific method could be adapted to provide meaningful data for other goals that are similarly difficult to assess in a higher education environment.
Naming A Diversity Goal
Most university systems have a goal pertaining to diversity and student learning. Yet diversity itself is an evolving and contested term that invites debate. Shifting cultural, racial, and national boundaries encourage us to continually rethink how we frame diversity (AAC&U, 2006); thus it comes as no surprise that, while campuses almost uniformly have diversity goals, they also have quite divergent language describing these goals. Diversity goals may be very general or quite specific. For example, while some students may be encouraged to “respond thoughtfully to diversity,” (West Chester University, 2008) others may be charged with studying “the interrelationships of individuals, racial groups, and cultural groups to understand and appreciate issues of diversity, equality, and structured inequality in the U.S., its institutions, and its cultures” (San Jose State University, 2005). In this context, diversity is understood to “include the experiences and/or contributions of those varying in (including but not limited to): accent, age, ancestry, citizenship status, color, creed, disability, ethnicity, gender, marital status, medical condition, national origin, race, religion or lack thereof, sex, sexual orientation, transgender, and veteran’s status.”
Diversity is often viewed as occurring at both the domestic and international levels, such that some students have a two-pronged requirement to develop an awareness of both American and global diversity. The University of Wyoming, for example, requires students to take courses in “American Diversities” and “Global Awareness,” with the latter focusing on either “a single culture, or… a regional cluster of cultures” (AAC&U, 2008).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Direct Assessment: Any assessment process which is based on examination of an actual performance (written or oral) which demonstrates the outcome in question.
Ethnic Identity: The degree to which an individual self-identifies membership with a given ethnic/cultural group. Membership is often defined as one’s comfort within a specific group, adherence to group norms, and participation in rituals/traditions of the group.
Semi-Structured Interview: A process of conducting oral interviews of subjects by using a brief prepared list of questions, along with follow-up probe questions, to maximize the interviewer’s opportunity to obtain detailed information in response to each question.
Qualitative Research: An investigational paradigm in which information is obtained through narrative accounts and/or observations. Information obtained is summarized and/or interpreted.
Rubric: A tool for systematically and consistently scoring written or oral responses according to pre-determined criteria.
Quantitative Research: An investigational paradigm involving efforts to operationally define relevant variables, to control the influence of extraneous variables, and to quantify results through the use of statistical analysis.
Cultural Diversity: Differences between individuals and groups such as language, religious beliefs, traditions, and social behaviors, among others.
External Validity: The extent to which the results obtained can be generalized to other individuals and/or contexts not studied.
Indirect Assessment: Any assessment process which provides perception data about the outcome in question.