Equitable Assignment Design

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Becky Supiano in the Chronicle of Higher Education provides a useful summary of a new research article offering 3 approaches to equitable assignment design and supported by research data. This discussion resonates with recommendations made by Hogan and Sathy in Inclusive Teaching: Strategies for Promoting Equity in the College Classroom. For those who were or were not able to meet Hogan and Sathy in the May faculty retreat and want to spend more time exploring their ideas, their book and its themes will be our No-Fuss Book Club selection in the fall.

Supiano’s review of this relevant research on equitable assignment design is here. And here is the core part of the summary copied from Supiano’s post:

“In a new paper, Estefan and his co-authors, Jesse Cordes Selbin and Sarah Macdonald, provide a framework for this type of equitable teaching. The authors describe three strategies, which can be combined, and offer examples of each.

Deliberative interdependence: This counters the typical individualistic model of American higher education by embracing community. Instructors who use this approach create conditions in which students’ success depends on one another. One example is a “collective quiz” where students answer multiple-choice questions in groups by reaching consensus. The consensus piece is important for equity, the paper underscores: It “forces the majority to persuade those in the minority, not overrule them.” Students then complete a self-assessment where they indicate how much of the material they read and their participation in the group as both speakers and listeners.

Transformative translation: People learn by connecting new information to what they already know. This can be done through assimilation, fitting new information into existing categories, or by transformative translation, which the paper describes as an “active process in which students modify their understanding by drawing on existing resources as they process new material and translate between them.” The paper provides an example Selbin uses, in which students learn about the historical context of literature they are studying in part through constructing a digital timeline to which they add events that tie into their own academic or personal interests. This strategy promotes equity by increasing students’ sense of belonging and their intrinsic motivation, as well as by connecting what students are learning to their lives.

Proactive engagement: This strategy seeks to go beyond welcoming students to putting them at the center of the learning environment. One example is crowdsourcing a grading rubric as a class, which, the paper says, “actively involves students in the assessment process and helps imbue grading criteria with a sense of legitimacy.” The approach can be particularly helpful for first-generation students as it helps reveal the hidden curriculum of college.”

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