How do I mitigate biases in assessments? This question came to my mind frequently while faced with the challenging and rewarding task of teaching a standard, preAP curriculum to a culturally and linguistically diverse student population. My students became my biggest teachers in learning how to adapt standard assessments so that students with a variety of background experiences and forms of knowledge could access them. Through observing their work and seeking their feedback, I found one of the best ways to identify cultural and linguistic biases within assessments was to turn them into performance tasks. Defining the students’ goal, role, audience, situation, task, and criteria for success as it related to the assessment helped me identify what skills and understandings the assessment assumed students carried. From there, I could question if the unit’s learning activities allowed all students to achieve mastery of the tested skills and understandings. Where there are gaps between mastery and the knowledge and skills an assessment asks students to activate, I must build more learning activities into the unit plan or scaffold the assessment with supports so that all students can access the performance task. Below, I describe the task objectives and assessment data.
Formative Performative Task
This performance task is an adaption of an assessment that the PreAP curriculum requires. It asks students to compare two versions of a social worker’s report and determine how rhetorical devices the social worker added to the second iteration of the report help or do not help the author achieve her purpose. The assessment supports aim to help Emerging English Bilingual, and Multilingual learners understand the context of the assessment (what does a successful social worker’s report look like?), comprehend the reports, and bridge their current productive language abilities with the abilities the test requires.
Reading- 126.96.36.199 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.
Speaking and Viewing- 188.8.131.52 Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, intended audience, and use of evidence and rhetoric, identifying any fallacious reasoning or exaggerated or distorted evidence.
Language- 184.108.40.206 Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level.
Content Objective: I can identify rhetorical devices in a piece of informational writing and argue if the rhetorical devices I identified do or do not serve the author’s purpose for writing.
Language Objective: I can use declarative sentences to argue if a rhetorical device supports a text’s purpose, with content-specific rhetorical terms (allusion, simile, narrative, etc.) and the general-academic terms: occasion, audience, purpose, subject, and tone.
Forms: Declarative Sentences
Vocabulary: content-specific rhetorical terms (allusion, simile, narrative, etc.) and the general-academic terms: occasion, audience, purpose, subject, and tone.
Performance Task Description:
Assessment of Data
This task reminded both the students and me that one could rhetorically analyze a text in a variety of ways. For each underlined portion of the text, students provided many rhetorical terms that could describe it. The more we discussed their answers and considered how the terms they described impacted us as readers, the more we refined our theories about what strategic choices the author was making to advance their purpose. For example, we discussed how the sentence “Before her husband’s death, Mrs. Wallace had not worked outside the home, so when work became necessary, she was qualified only for a low-paying job as a cashier” represented both repetition (of “work”) and a periodic sentence. Through discussion, we concluded that the repetition of “work” increased the cause-effect nature of the periodic sentence. The last clause of the sentence (and main point) that describes why Mrs. Wallace only qualified for low-paying work comes after a list of all the reasons why she could not secure better work. Understanding how much value discussion added to my students’ effort to analyze the piece, I decided to build more peer conversation work into their Atlantic essay assignment. I added more open workdays and peer editing days into the curriculum.