Promoting Inclusivity Through a Culturally Responsive Approach to Classroom Assessment Practices

Promoting Inclusivity Through a Culturally Responsive Approach to Classroom Assessment Practices

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8579-5.ch018
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Culturally responsive pedagogy is an approach to teaching that attempts to address the learning needs of students from marginalized or non-majority populations. While the concept of culturally responsive pedagogy has been practiced in various forms in educational institutions around the world, there is still a gap in how the principles of cultural responsiveness are authentically embedded in assessment practices, particularly in a way that encourages all students to actively engage in the learning process. The purpose of this chapter is to argue the necessity for culturally responsive teaching and to articulate specific ways in which teachers can integrate practices that promote anti-racism, encourage student voice, facilitate community discourse, eliminate inherent bias in grading practices, and mitigate barriers to accessibility.
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Gloria Ladson-Billings (1995) challenged educators to consider how culturally relevant pedagogies could help students from marginalized populations retain their cultural perspective while participating (and succeeding) in an educational system that has effectively been designed for students unlike them. As Ladson-Billings put it, “All instruction is culturally responsive. The question is: To which culture is it currently oriented?” (2009, p. 198). For marginalized students to be successful academically, educators must respond in positive ways to diverse student needs including recognizing cultural identity and deconstructing social and political movements aimed at recolonization, rights suppression, or systemic discrimination (Khalifa, 2020; Ladson-Billings, 1995; Love, 2019; Minor, 2019).

Given that assessment practices serve as a lynchpin for effective teaching and learning, Montenegro and Jankowski (2017) note, “Students have different ways to demonstrate their knowledge and we need to use assessment metrics that appropriately elicit demonstrations of what students know” (p. 15). These different ways of students demonstrating what they know and what they can do is often moored in their cultural identity, requiring educators who want to accurately gauge achievement to simultaneously account for cultural differences in their assessment practices. Failing to consider these cultural differences in our assessment practices risks invalidating certain types of assessment practices and artifacts, privileging some cultural groups over others, and reinforcing a belief in marginalized students that they are not, and cannot hope to be, academically successful (Montenegro & Jankowski, 2017). Barnhardt and Kawagley (2005) found that lack of cultural responsiveness is a major stumbling block for marginalized students:

[Indigenous students] have, for the most part, demonstrated a distinct lack of enthusiasm for the experience of schooling in its conventional form—an aversion that is most often attributable to an alien institutional culture rather than any lack of innate intelligence, ingenuity, or problem-solving skills on the part of the students. (p. 10)

For Black and other marginalized students, Minor (2019) argued, “Education has done very little to shift power or to distribute it evenly. Rather it has functioned to ensure that power stays where it has been--among the wealthy, among the men, among the white people” (p. 44).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Productive Failure: A mindset that encourages the embrace of mistakes and errors within the process of learning.

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy (CRP): Sometimes referred to as culturally responsive teaching (CRT), CRP is a student-centered approach to teaching that incorporates the cultural needs of learners who are not from the existing dominant demographic group or who may be marginalized and subject to bias and discrimination, particularly within the educational system.

Formative Assessment: Planned, ongoing monitoring of student learning that includes feedback and opportunities for reflection.

Psychological Safety: The feeling that one can speak freely and take risks without fear of negative judgment from others.

Anti-Racism: The active practice of opposing policies that lead to, sustain, or exacerbate bias and discrimination based on race or ethnicity.

Community Discourse: Within the context of classroom learning, active student engagement and variety of expression in conversations related to the content and skills being taught.

Inclusivity: The policy and practice of ensuring all participants have full access to all available services and opportunities.

Implicit Bias: Unconscious attitudes, beliefs, and stereotypes that affect our understanding and interactions with others.

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