Understanding BAME attainment gaps: the perspective of assessment

Zhu, Xiaotong and Sterling-Morris, Rhianne-Ebony (2021) Understanding BAME attainment gaps: the perspective of assessment. In: BERA (British Educational Research Association) Annual Conference 2021, 13th-16th September 2021, Online.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Presentation)
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Despite steady process in increasing participation in higher education for disadvantaged and underrepresented groups, differences in degree outcomes exist and persist. A wealth of compelling empirical evidence has been provided by previous studies (e.g. Richardson, 2008) using national datasets to demonstrate that the proportion of students achieving a ‘good’ degree (i.e. a First or Upper-second classification) differs between different groups of students, such as females and males, students from lower and higher socio-economic backgrounds, and in particular students from different ethnic backgrounds. The impact of ethnicity on the persistent degree attainment gap as such is usually conveniently discussed with reference to a controversial umbrella categorisation “Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME)”. However, it is important to be mindful of regarding the BAME community as a homogeneous group and be aware that the attainment gap is not the same for all ethnic groups under this umbrella term. Richardson (2008) found that in relation to the odds of white students being awarded good degrees, the odds of black students and Asian Students being awarded good degrees were 0.33 and 0.50 times respectively. Other researchers (e.g. Broecke and Nicholls, 2007) confirmed the existence of an unexplained BAME degree attainment gap, even after taking into account of the effects of a range of individual and institutional characteristics including but not limited to prior attainment, age, gender, socioeconomic backgrounds, type of entry qualification and subject of study in Higher Education (HE).
A key challenge of research and practice is understanding the reasons for the BAME degree attainment gap and evaluating the effectiveness of initiatives which have been implemented to narrow it. Despite longstanding concern within the HE sector, “little progress has been made in reducing it as the degree attainment gap has remained nearly static” (Austen et al., 2017, p.1). However, there is a growing consensus that the cause of the BAME degree attainment is complex and multi-dimensional rather than a “magic bullet” (e.g. Mountford-Zimdars et al. 2017). This is reflected in previous research investigating the impact of various areas on this topic. Examples include the impact of sense of belonging and BAME student experience (e.g. Cureton and Gravestock, 2019), the development of an inclusive curriculum (e.g. Hockings, 2010), teaching and assessment practices (e.g. Evans et al. 2019), and the difference in staff and students’ Mindsets and unconscious biases (Mahmud and Gagnon, 2020).
This paper is based on a subset of findings from an ongoing institutional and interdisciplinary research project formally launched by a post-1992 university in early 2019. Employing a mixed methods design, the project seeks to explore the nature of attainment gaps (in particular the BAME degree attainment gap) existing among certain groups of students at the university. It also aims to support design and implementation of evidence-informed, localised interventions promoting inclusiveness in teaching and assessment practices, in order to narrow those gaps. Based on the understanding that the attainment gap differs from one context to another (e.g. among HE institutions or subjects within one institution) (Mountford-Zimdars et al. 2017), we are focused on understanding institution-specific pedagogic and assessment aspects that are responsible for existing attainment gaps.
Specifically, our presentation will share key findings from the mixed-nature data on BAME students’ perceptions of good and bad assessment practices. This contained quantitative institutional National Student Satisfaction (NSS) 2019 and 2020 data with respect to the ‘assessment and feedback’ area, as well as qualitative data collected in academic year 2019-20 from a small group of eight self-selected BAME students through focus groups. By presenting the extent to which these two sources of data complemented each other and the detail, we hope to provide some useful insights into good assessment design and practices in the context of supporting BAME student learning and academic attainment in HE.

Keywords:BAME, attainment gap, Learning and assessment
Subjects:X Education > X342 Academic studies in Higher Education
Divisions:Professional services > Lincoln Higher Education Research Institute
ID Code:46305
Deposited On:13 Oct 2021 13:49

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