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R3 1.5 March 15, 2023 Authentic Assessment and DEIJ in Online Courses
How the DEIJ (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice) lens was used to design authentic assessments for a health communications course
This issue of R3 is shorter than most, as it falls squarely in the midst of spring break season for colleges and universities in the United States. In it, I’ll summarize a recent article on DEIJ and online course design.
Authentic Assessments through the Lenses of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice in a Fully Online Course
Abramenka-Lachheb, D. V., & De Siqueira, D. A. (2022). Authentic assessments through the lenses of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice in a fully online course. Journal of Teaching and Learning with Technology, 11(1), 18–36.
Paywall or Open:
This article is part of a special issue of JTLT on authentic assessment. Assessment was a major component of the upheaval associated with COVID-19, as instructors who depended on high-stakes exams had to choose whether to continue these by using online proctoring systems, or to shift to a new paradigm for evaluating learning. Against this background, the authors (both instructional designers) relate their experience choosing and putting into place technologies for assessment that reinforce DEIJ, with an emphasis on tools that are readily available in Canvas or on the web. The specific course in question was an undergraduate-level public health communication course. The term project in this course is a student-created multilevel public health campaign, including speeches delivered by students online via the Kaltura video tool. The authors summarize the challenges of designing for authentic assessment through a DEIJ lens, and explain how DEIJ and authentic assessment, in this case, worked together and were interwoven throughout the course, and which tools they found particularly useful in accomplishing this end.
Research Questions (excerpted from the article):
“The purpose of this article is to describe how we, learning designers, conceptualized the DEIJ dimensions and reflected them in our design decisions with the use of technology.”
Method/Design: Case study/reflection on the design of an undergraduate online course in communications.
The article provides clear and detailed explanations of the two key frameworks, first, authentic assessment, and second, DEIJ course features. Table 1 in particular expands each component of DEIJ with an operationalized definition, how it is enacted in the course design, and examples of authentic assessments that put these into practice using the different technology tools in the course .
These technology tools were mostly things that are familiar and readily available, emphasizing LMS features like rubrics, discussion boards, and video. The authors also count online materials that students focused on in their projects, such as social media and freely available web sites.
Discussion boards were particularly central to the project, and the article describes in some detail how students were asked to respond to prompts. These prompts generally focused on issues relating to DEIJ, such as awareness of biases, and were evaluated using a rubric that explicitly considered inclusive communication style. Videos and photos were also used as discussion starters.
To lay a foundation for these DEIJ components, designers created an introductory DEIJ module that focused on implicit bias, recognition of one’s own biases and similar topics.
A further innovation was the assignment based on “external simulation tools.” This was intended to replicate realistic types of workplace skills including conflict resolution and productive collaboration. A simulation game called TeamWorks! was used for this.
Choice Quote from the Article:
“Situating learners in real-world scenarios while supporting each learner during their learning journey regardless of their background, origin, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, or learning differences through necessary scaffolding and mentoring is a manifestation of how authentic learning is connected to the DEIJ dimensions. Providing authentic learning experiences, which include authentic assessments, that are connected to the real world and disciplinary practices is not enough to be called equitable and inclusive learning, although equitable access to experts, mentoring, and thoughtful feedback throughout learning experiences allows learners to build on their skills and find their learning path. Further, providing learners with choices for assessment, including real-life scenarios to analyze or projects to work on, supports their search for what is truly dear to them.”
Why it Matters:
This article is an inspiring read, with some powerful sections linking cultural competency, course design and assessment. They emphasize not only the need for transparency in the purpose of assignments, but also point out that understanding the cultural background of your students makes it much more likely that you’ll be able to link class activities to real—life contexts that your students actually find relevant.
Especially for readers with some experience in course redesign, the piece offers a good case study on though and realign an existing course for DEIJ goals, without adding a great deal of new material, or tacking on a one-off “diversity” module that’s disconnected from the rest of the course.
In my experience, most faculty are eager to advance DEIJ in their teaching, but some have a hard time seeing how to bridge that ideal and the practice. This article offers some examples of what DEIJ-focused assessments can look like (although see the caveats below on this not being the most beginner-friendly article on the topic).
Lastly, there are materials here that can be taken and adapted for your own use. Some of these, such as the discussion post rubric, are discipline-independent; others, like the website evaluation rubric, could be adapted for other disciplines or types of assignments. All of these tap into the kind of real-world application skills that faculty tend to value highly. Thus, they could help make a persuasive case for a different approach among faculty used to relying heavily on the kind of high-stakes exams that are a major headache to pull off in online courses.
Most Relevant For:
Instructional designers; course redesign initiatives; communications and public health departments; IDs and others who are designing workshops for faculty; faculty and IDs responsible for online course design
Limitations, Caveats, and Nagging Questions:
There is some jargon in the article, especially when it comes to more disciplinary-specific assignments and concepts (e.g., “audience analysis,” “mapping tools”). It follows that this might not be the best piece to distribute in its entirety to, e.g., faculty members who are new to the concept of course redesign or inclusive teaching. I also found myself wanting more detail on the simulation assignment, since simulations are a powerful type of activity that I think ought to be used more frequently, especially in online courses.
If you liked this article, you might also appreciate:
Fuentes, M. A., Zelaya, D. G., & Madsen, J. W. (2021). Rethinking the course syllabus: Considerations for promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion. Teaching of Psychology, 48(1), 69–79. https://doi.org/10.1177/0098628320959979
Hogan, K.A., & Sathy, V. (2022). Inclusive Teaching: Strategies for Promoting Equity in the College Classroom. West Virginia University Press.
Kelly, K., & Zakrajsek, T. (2021). Advancing Online Teaching: Creating Equity-Based Digital Learning Environments. Stylus Publishing.
File under: DEIJ, inclusive teaching, online courses, assessment, authentic assessment