This paper presents the conceptual framework for the project “Aiding culturally responsive assessment in schools” (ACRAS). The project has partners in Austria (Johannes Kepler University in Linz), Ireland (Dublin City University), Norway (University of Oslo), and Turkey (Çankiri Karatekin University). The scope of the project is school-based assessment in secondary schools, comprising teacher-managed assessment. The target population is students with migration backgrounds and/or whose first language in most cases is different from that of the language of the classroom.
This paper is based on the outcomes of the literature surveys conducted by the four partners and the exploratory questionnaire that surveyed secondary schools in the four countries. The aim of the study is to provide a toolkit for teachers for culturally responsive classroom assessment based on best practice.
The research question for this paper is: Based on the literature surveys and the questionnaire responses, what are the key themes and concepts that guide the ACRAS project?
The theoretical framework of this paper is the assumption that analysis of the literature surveys and the responses to the questionnaires yield a guide or a framework for the outcomes of the project. This reflects an interpretive theoretical framework where the meaning in social constructions of research and questionnaire responses can be explored. The analysis provides the themes and concepts embedded in the literature and the recurring themes in the questionnaires, thus facilitating a comparison of the aspirations in the literature and the beliefs and practices of school personnel. The concepts serve as a guide as to what we should attend to in the future case studies, data analysis, outcomes and reporting for the ACRAS study.
The project addresses the issue of culturally responsive assessment for students with a migration background because the immigration into each of the four countries of people from different countries, though at different levels, has resulted in school populations of various cultures. To date, most of the literature on culturally responsive issues addresses learning and pedagogy, rather than assessment.
The focus on culturally responsive teaching and learning has arisen because of the documented inequality in educational achievement of minority cultural groups (for example, Bradshaw, O’Brennan & McNeely, 2008; Raines, Dever, Kamphaus & Roach, 2012). Herzog-Punzenberger’s (2017) analysis of PISA results for the four partner countries in a quasi-longitudinal perspective indicates the performance of immigrant students compared to their native peers (p. 8). While the analysis considers context factors such as the share of immigrant students among all students and the likelihood for immigrant students to be placed in schools with a large share of socially disadvantaged students, the analysis reveals variation in the performance gap between immigrant students and native peers in the four countries (p. 8).
The need to address assessment that is culturally responsive is considered a legal requirement, such as the International law on Rights of Minorities, as well as fairness, ethics and the desirability of diversity. Fairness has become a central concept in the impetus for culturally responsive assessment. While curriculum and assessment systems differ in the four countries with different levels of centrality and uniformity, classroom-based assessment is a common feature.
The theoretical framework espoused by the project includes the belief that the quality of classroom assessment in the four partner countries can be improved by exploring best practice in order to provide support for teachers in the four countries in utilising assessment methods that are culturally fair.