Students of various backgrounds can be affected by stereotypes, which may in turn affect how they perform in your course. Inclusive assessment can help mitigate this possibility. Reflecting on their performance after an exam can help build students' abilities to study in appropriate ways.
You can relieve some of the pressures of high-stakes assessments by giving students multiple opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge. Low-stakes assessments also allow you to understand students' challenges and incorrect connections before they become consequential to students' final grade or to their understanding of core concepts in your course.
- In addition to heavily-weighted exams, papers, and projects, consider giving students nongraded or very low-point allotted assessments. These could be quizzes, reflection papers, pieces of a larger assignment, problem sets, or minute papers (i.e., anonymous papers that ask students for key ideas learned and lingering questions on a particular day).
- Help students understand how to succeed by scaffolding complex assignments. One method of scaffolding is to break a complex assignment into smaller components that build on each other and are assigned for points. At each stage, provide substantive, clear, and specific feedback. To help students with the process of writing a research paper, students might complete a proposal, abstract, outline, and bibliography before writing. To help students think in more complex, disciplinary-specific ways, consider assigning summaries and quizzes before they attempt a case analysis or complete a lab report.
Provide a transparent assessment framework
- Use rubrics that help students see and understand what good and exceptional work looks like. Rubrics help students see what mastery looks like because you base student performance against a preset list of measurable objectives and not against the performance of other students.
- Allow multiple options for engagement if class participation is graded. Explain what good participation looks like for each mode.
Make sure your assessment content is clear
- Avoid complex vocabulary unless you are testing vocabulary.
- Omit national or cultural references that may be unknown to students of different backgrounds.
- Structure assessments to reflect skills, topics, and learning outcomes for the course.
Give feedback that conveys the following:
- The specific areas in which students' work does and does not meet the standards for assessment/grading criteria.
- Assurance that you are providing critical feedback because you have high standards and expectations.
- Assurance that students have the ability meet those standards and directions on the steps they need to take next.
Consider using exam wrappers
Ask students to reflect on their exam preparation after a midterm or test. Exam wrappers are short questionnaires that students complete when an exam is turned back to them. These exam wrappers direct students to review their performance and the instructor’s feedback with an eye toward adapting their future learning. Try this method:
- Return the exam and explain that exams can help students learn how they understand material and inform targeted ways to study.
- Pass out the exam wrapper, which is a list of questions below, and collect them in the following class.
- Describe the specific strategies and the percentage of time you spent studying during this unit.
- What surprised you about your experience with the exam?
- Where did you have trouble on the exam? For example, did you have difficulties applying definitions, remembering key terms or frameworks, understanding concepts, not knowing how to approach a problem, or making careless mistakes?
- Based on the above, which specific strategies will you continue and which will you change to prepare for the next exam?
- Mark the exam wrapper for completion.
- Return the wrappers so that students can use them to prepare for the next exam.
- Share common themes, strategies, and challenges with the students. Offer advice on better ways to study. For example, suggest that they quiz each other or explain difficult concepts to a novice.
For more information, see Best Practices for Inclusive Assessment from Duke University.
- Yeager et al., 2013