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The Need for New and Different Assessments in Higher Education

Updated: Aug 25, 2021

Current standardized testing can result in an unequal evaluation process at the disadvantage to some underrepresented students, says this Hechinger Report. As Walt MacDonald explained: traditional testing approaches, particularly with the GRE, hurt non-traditional students whose lifestyles involve balancing other obligations on top of a school workload such as working, family care, and more.

This burden typically falls on students categorized as minorities that can be based on race, income, or economic circumstances who already have further limitations in their day-to-day life. One of the biggest conflicts in this approach is the inability of these lifestyles to be as involved as other, less burdened students, in extracurricular, school-related activities that can get them noticed by their ideal schools.

Given this, students who must prioritize working over school constantly face barriers to completing course work, attending course, and ultimately graduating. For this student-type, the rigidity of standardized testing leaves little room for error, which is an issue especially as students are more likely to work in college now, instead of being involved on their campus in extracurricular activities, student social life, or conducting additional research projects. This can appear as a gap in the potential student’s qualifications or prompt a question commitment to their studies.

However, this observation is positive as universities and institutions catch on to this potential for unequal student review, while also still wanting to access the benefits the tests provide. Some institutions are choosing to defund or opt-out of using high-cost, less-diverse assessments, avenues to alternative testing are open! It is evident that assessments still present value and provide important data to measure a students’ comprehension, knowledge, and overall capabilities on a scale that reflects those necessary to excel in a program. It is this shift towards accessibility to all students on and off-campus, as well as inclusivity of all student lifestyles pursuant of a degree that now needs universal integration to ensure accuracy and effectiveness.

In the wave of momentum toward adopting EdTech through the wake of COVID-19, there are still gaps in evaluation and assessment protocols, as well as new lifestyle changes to consider. With the unexpected economic, personal, and financial challenges that many have encountered this year, institutions are finding it incredibly important to prioritize taking action in integrating the creation of equal opportunities as much as possible.

The Shift: More Holistic Testing

The contemporary approach now is to view test scoring as one part of “the whole student” that complements other metrics and aspects of the student’s performance. This new approach offers a more holistic way of evaluating a students’ overall skills and capabilities without being dependent on one specific metric and by allowing more context into the student’s portfolio. This allows evaluations to be more inclusive of a students’ background, particularly for those with backgrounds that could potentially impose limitations on their likelihood to be accurately evaluated on the standard scale. The intent behind this movement is to ensure that students are able to take advantage of opportunities to expand their growth and knowledge in a way that is compatible with them. The proposed solution is to provide a balanced evaluation scale that does not discriminate between non-traditional college experiences.

Measuring Progress Without Standardized Tests

The rapid changes within higher education have forced administrations to seek new ways to evaluate. As institutions want to create more inclusive and accessible alternatives to standardized testing, we hope they use this chance to adopt technology, like Uvii’s mobile application, that serves their student populations with easy, informed evaluation.


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