Bledsoe and Donaldson (2015) state that the call for cultural responsiveness “has reached a deafening crescendo” (p. 7). The call has several bases: the migration of peoples, globalisation which Portera (2008) claims is resulting in populations observing and participating in cultures different from their own (p. 481). While there are legal requirements such as the International law on the Rights of Minorities, the literature emphasises the moral demand for fairness and the desirability of diversity. In Ireland we are experiencing immigration from countries quite different culturally from ours.
We have 55 students from a migrant background in first, second and third level in our education system. Indeed, most Universities are expanding to potential students. However, as assessment drives learning, it is important that assessment is culturally responsive for all students. It is particularly important that lecturers and supervisors in all universities and supervisors are aware of the dimensions of culture that impact on learning for their students (Rothstein-Fisch & Trumbull, 2008 pp. 1-2). The literature suggests that, for culturally-responsive assessment, studies do not “offer formulas but they do offer insights” (Hollins, 1993 p. 98). Culturally-responsive assessment requires “new thinking and practices” (Hood, Hopson & Frierson, 2015, p.xv). In response to this call to action and as part of a DCU IOE funded project, researchers at EQI developed an online course that offered higher education personnel the opportunity to engage in a scaffolded opportunity to design culturally-responsive assessment based on insight gleaned from the literature in a collegial, supportive environment with positive and critical-friend feedback. This environment facilitated participants in reflecting on their level of learning and level of skill in designing culturally-responsive assessment in their own disciplines. Following on from the completion of the course, participants were interviewed through a series of focus groups in order to ascertain their perspectives of the online course and future training requirements. Initial findings suggest that, although the course was greeted very positively and for many was an eye opener to the lack of awareness in this area. On the other hand participants were also of the view that more training was required, in particular, participants were of the view that there needs to be a nationwide discussion about issues of race, culture, ethnicity, identity, etc. In other words, more preparation is required before higher education institutions approach the practice elements of Culturally Responsive Assessment.