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"If we can learn from our shared history of interactive experience, restore a part of what has been lost, and transform our present and future cross-cultural relations accordingly, both America's differing microcultures and our experimental multicultural society as a whole have the potential to develop in ways that contribute to our effectiveness in pursuing semi-autonomous cultural trajectories while further realizing our shared democratic ideals, thus offering a positive model for international processes of mutually respectful and beneficial cross-cultural interaction and cooperative development." -- Judith M. Green

 

One of the purposes of education in our society is to provide opportunities for the sharing of social and educational experiences. These experiences, if truly integrated into the curriculum, provide participants (teacher, students, administrator and, in some cases, parents) with common experiences, a common sense of values (Beane, 1997, pg 5). Thus, these shared experiences can promote the common good. Social integration allows for cultures to grow from each other, blend, in creating a new construct of meaning and reorganization of ideas that include all, and exclude none. This would blur the lines of groups presented by Banks, creating a new integrated group, as described by Kallen. Mortimer (1999) states,

Every political community tends to, and needs to, form some general conception of the kind of community it is and would like to be, what it stands for, how it differs from others; in short some view of its identity.

It does not, though, mean losing all uniqueness, but rather creating a new tolerance of differences and a deeper understanding of cultures, customs, constructs and participants. (participants is used rather than people, because each individual has the right to move from one set of customs to another, thus participating in customs as they choose.) 

As all educators know, concepts that are worth teaching, are worth assessing. With each lesson plan, teachers decide what will be presented, how the presentation will lead students to gain the insight/knowledge desired, and the type of assessment (the test, paper or other grading tool that will be used).  

How can you use information on multiculturalism?  

My findings on the subject of multiculturalism have led to the development of the term as a fluid rather than a static idea. It is like defining our "language"; it is always changing. The concept of multiculturalism changes as we, as individuals or as a nation, change. Some psychologist and philosophers have tried to put some parameters around this concept, all somehow still too limiting.  And, while I have found theories, I've found no evaluation of the effectiveness of using any of the theories.

Although values and beliefs of a culture are often learned through interaction or observation of role models and the arts (drama, literature, visual arts, music, etc.), ultimately what we perceive as our culture comes from within. The values are constructed from experiences. Learning about oneself and ones' world from reflecting on these past experiences provides individuals and groups, in some instances, with a foundation for handling problems. One obstacle overcome gives the student tools to overcome a similar obstacle. Learning becomes internal, constructive, and reflective.  It allows the individual to broaden his understanding of himself and his world, AND it allows the new learned behavior to broaden the spectrum from which to receive the next opportunity.  In integrating learning about cultures with life experiences, students and adults find common moments that can build to create more moments. If, on the other hand, cultures are taught as separate entities that neither reflect life for the student body as a whole nor integrate into the whole learning experience, students are likely to miss transferring the lessons of multiculturalism into everyday life.  

Thus, here lies a starting point to assessing multiculturalism  Student can identify their own values, biases and prejudices. Later, evaluate again where each student is and analyze why and how they have changed.  Even better, give the students guidance or tools to let them evaluate themselves and/or their groups.

Multicultural Assessment Researched

Though I searched for four months for assessments for multicultural projects in schools or companies, I found no assessment plans at all.  Also, I received only one response to my request for information. I think this is because, in general, people think that assessing multiculturalism is somehow different from assessing other material. Part of the problem may be the lack of a concrete definition for what multiculturalism is.  Yet, I think the idea of assessment is very important and therefore submit this information for consideration. 

So, how can we assess how well we are doing?

  1. Create lessons that can work in multiple classes or across multiple classes. Make certain that the lesson has some meaning for the students. Assess the lesson on the diversity of their information, the diversity of their group, group interaction, and group communication.
  2. Speak to students.  Ask them about racism, prejudices, bias, and monoculture. Guide them toward open communication, but following the guidelines in "Giving it Meaning". 
  3. Assess lessons authentically. Expect students to do critical thinking rather than reword the information presented. Lessons should expand their knowledge and present opportunities for them to grow and change. One teacher asked if students could be graded on how their views about multiculturalism changed.  I responded by saying that students could be assessed on how they verbalized about their feelings, acted in situations, and how they applied the new knowledge. In a sense, this is how students are graded on new lessons of Algebra or punctuation. Teachers grade them on how well they've applied the lessons. In this case, how they are developing as democratic citizens in this already multicultural society.
  4. Begin lessons by providing students with information on assessment. Let them know how they will be assessed and on what knowledge/behavior. Provide them with a rubric or other measurement tool if possible. Let the tool clearly define growth expected and behavior that is unacceptable. If students are made aware of what path we expect them to take, they are more prepared with the consequences of following or diverting from that path. 
  5. Look at the assessment for the lessons provided for further guidance.
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Last updated: December 01, 2000.