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“Stop measuring black children with a white stick”: how to make school assessment fairer for all – SchoolNews


In the title we quote Michelle Martin (with her permission) who is a proud Kidja woman and an ardent educator. She sees a system that does not sufficiently recognize the worldview or knowledge of Aboriginal students.

Instead, the education system measures Aboriginal students according to Belarusian-language and cultural systems.

We know that languages ​​other than English have features that do not exist in English and use different ways of communicating. This is especially true of many Aboriginal languages. According to an employee of the Center for Aboriginal Policy Studies Inge Kingthese languages ​​have complex ways of conveying meaning, including:

[…] language, signs, gestures and gaze, special styles and registers of speech, nonverbal communication and symbolic representations found in body painting, carved images and sand paintings.

But the school system – and the way it evaluates students – does not recognize this.

This, of course, applies to NAPLAN testing, which is limited in what and how it is tested. And, thanks to “backwash effect”High-level standardized assessment of pedagogical practice, teachers also tend to set students tasks that closely coincide with NAPLAN-style assessments. This is commonly known as “training before the test“.

In our new paper, we argue that language and assessment methods in the classroom need to be expanded. Such changes will make assessment more inclusive and fair for all, especially for first-nation students.

Why is the current practice of school assessment “unfair”?

One test, one language

Most assessment practices now adhere to the “one test, one language” principle. We argue that this is inherently unfair to users of multiple languages.

Consider the following an example of New York University researchers. Paco is a child with a language repertoire of both Spanish and English. But judging by each of these languages ​​separately, his knowledge is considered a flaw. The assessment does not provide an accurate assessment of Pak’s knowledge and skills, nor does it recognize and value his bilingual identity.

In this example, the evaluation objectives are not fully met. Assessment also favors a monolingual student. They can use the full range of their language skills, while a bilingual student can only use half of their knowledge.

One way to communicate

The current practice of assessment is not only monolingual, but usually written. Therefore, the approach “one test, one language, one mode” is used. For some users of Aboriginal languages, this means that their messages cannot be fully conveyed because it is culturally appropriate to use a gesture or signature to convey certain information.

For example, some Aboriginal languages use the cardinal direction – use compass directions such as north, south, east and west. English uses a left / right location-oriented system. In contrast, the cardinal direction in these languages ​​is not focused on personal location, but on a real compass.

У Gugu YimitirAboriginal language in the Far North of Queensland, the cardinal direction can only be conveyed through body position and gestures with a compass-like accuracy.

This is just one example of how languages ​​can differ and why testing in English can harm native speakers of those other languages.

How to make the assessment fairer for all?

We offer two main ways to make school assessment more equitable for all:

  1. Assessment practice should allow students to use all available language resources to express their knowledge and understanding.

  2. assessment methods need to be expanded to cover language practice in other languages.

Some may argue that if the assessment includes languages ​​other than English, the teacher will not be able to understand and evaluate the student’s work.

However, we respond that this gives teachers the opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue with children to learn about their social, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds. This will help teachers see what these children are capable of in their additional language. This can be supported by the use of “transitional” education and “two-way” classroom learning.

Transitional education

“Negotiation” is a term used to describe the ways in which people will use all their available semantic resources for communication – such as signs and languages. In a classroom that uses a a transitional approach to learningsuch practices are not only permitted but also actively valued.

Transparency is shown improve learning and promote inclusion in the classroom. It is used to demonstrate that all languages, and therefore all children, are welcome in this class.

The negotiation also strongly coincides with the “two-sided” approach to learning – one that has been promoted in the educational contexts of the first nations for more than half a century. Bilateral training based on dialogue between teacher and student and equal exchange of knowledge about language and culture.

New ways of communication

Western narrative now predominates in school storytelling practices. This is just one style of storytelling in writing. There are many styles of storytelling in different modes such as sand drawing, art, drama, singing and dancing.

This example from Ngaanyatjarra, an Aboriginal language group in Western Australia, shows the story of a traditional sand story:

As part of a research project with Aboriginal youth Inge Kral and her colleagues documentary ten young women from the first nations who used the iPad to record traditional sand stories. In doing so, they used several means of communication.

Kral and her colleagues comment on how these young people easily merged and integrated to create new ways of communicating:

The films are full of color, energy and originality, and we see traditional iconography merge with modern symbols as young narrators tell stories of departures from bushes collecting traditional produce, with humorous recollections of flat tires and visions of scary animals.

This example shows that students are able to present their knowledge and understanding in different ways of communication, such as oral, digital, drawing.

It is important to note that these innovative and creative practices were created outside the classroom, not inside. It’s time for that to change.

By allowing linguistic freedom of expression and expanding ways of communicating in assessment, we can enrich our understanding of the world and make assessment in the classroom more equitable.

Carly Steeleteacher, University of Curtin; Graham GowerAssociate Professor, University of Curtin; Ronda Oliverprofessor and head of the school, University of Curtinand Sender DowchinAssociate Professor and Director of Research, University of Curtin. This article is republished from Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read original article.


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