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New Approaches to Designing and Administering Inclusive Assessments  

Meagan Karvonen, Neal M. Kingston, Michael L. Wehmeyer, and W. Jake Thompson

Historically pervasive models of disability as a deficit negatively impacted thinking about the accessibility of educational assessments and how this issue should be addressed. In a deficit-based model, assessments are designed without consideration of individual differences and students with disabilities receive accommodations as an exception to the typical administration. With the shift to social models of disability, the assessment field has concomitantly adopted new approaches to designing and administering assessments that recognize variability in how individuals interact with assessments. Inclusive assessment requires that conditions are in place to support the validity of score inferences for their intended uses—for all students. Inclusive assessment requires moving past a deficit-based model and designing for examinee variability. An inclusive model requires knowledge of student characteristics and new ways of thinking about student-item interactions. Computer-based testing and other technologies such as alternative or augmentative communication devices provide support for flexible assessment administration. One way to ensure inclusive assessments meet professional standards for quality is to blend evidence-centered design and universal design principles. Evidence-centered design has five stages that span from construct definition to inferences made from test scores: domain analysis, domain modeling, conceptual assessment framework, assessment implementation, and assessment delivery. Assessment developers can use universal design principles to minimize construct-irrelevant variance by attending to the student’s engagement when presented with assessment stimuli and items, articulating the information the student needs to know in order to respond correctly, and providing multiple means to communicate responses. When evidence-centered design and universal design are blended, these approaches support inclusive assessment design, administration, and scoring, as well as evidence for validity and technical adequacy. Shifts in policy and educational practice are also necessary to support inclusive assessment.


Qualitative Design Research Methods  

Michael Domínguez

Emerging in the learning sciences field in the early 1990s, qualitative design-based research (DBR) is a relatively new methodological approach to social science and education research. As its name implies, DBR is focused on the design of educational innovations, and the testing of these innovations in the complex and interconnected venue of naturalistic settings. As such, DBR is an explicitly interventionist approach to conducting research, situating the researcher as a part of the complex ecology in which learning and educational innovation takes place. With this in mind, DBR is distinct from more traditional methodologies, including laboratory experiments, ethnographic research, and large-scale implementation. Rather, the goal of DBR is not to prove the merits of any particular intervention, or to reflect passively on a context in which learning occurs, but to examine the practical application of theories of learning themselves in specific, situated contexts. By designing purposeful, naturalistic, and sustainable educational ecologies, researchers can test, extend, or modify their theories and innovations based on their pragmatic viability. This process offers the prospect of generating theory-developing, contextualized knowledge claims that can complement the claims produced by other forms of research. Because of this interventionist, naturalistic stance, DBR has also been the subject of ongoing debate concerning the rigor of its methodology. In many ways, these debates obscure the varied ways DBR has been practiced, the varied types of questions being asked, and the theoretical breadth of researchers who practice DBR. With this in mind, DBR research may involve a diverse range of methods as researchers from a variety of intellectual traditions within the learning sciences and education research design pragmatic innovations based on their theories of learning, and document these complex ecologies using the methodologies and tools most applicable to their questions, focuses, and academic communities. DBR has gained increasing interest in recent years. While it remains a popular methodology for developmental and cognitive learning scientists seeking to explore theory in naturalistic settings, it has also grown in importance to cultural psychology and cultural studies researchers as a methodological approach that aligns in important ways with the participatory commitments of liberatory research. As such, internal tension within the DBR field has also emerged. Yet, though approaches vary, and have distinct genealogies and commitments, DBR might be seen as the broad methodological genre in which Change Laboratory, design-based implementation research (DBIR), social design-based experiments (SDBE), participatory design research (PDR), and research-practice partnerships might be categorized. These critically oriented iterations of DBR have important implications for educational research and educational innovation in historically marginalized settings and the Global South.


Qualitative Data Analysis  

Paul Mihas

Qualitative analysis—the analysis of textual, visual, or audio data—covers a spectrum from confirmation to exploration. Qualitative studies can be directed by a conceptual framework, suggesting, in part, a deductive thrust, or driven more by the data itself, suggesting an inductive process. Generic or basic qualitative research refers to an approach in which researchers are simply interested in solving a problem, effecting a change, or identifying relevant themes rather than attempting to position their work in a particular epistemological or ontological paradigm. Other qualitative traditions include grounded theory, narrative analysis, and phenomenology. Grounded theory encompasses several approaches, including objectivist and constructivist traditions, and commonly invites researchers to theorize a process and perhaps identify its contexts and consequences. Narrative analysis is an approach that treats stories not only as representations of events but as narrative events in themselves. Researchers using this approach analyze the form and content of narrative data and examine how these elements serve the storyteller and the story. Other elements often considered include plot, genre, character, values, resolutions, and motifs. Phenomenology is an approach designed to “open up” a phenomenon and make sense of its invariant structure, its identifiable essence across all narrative accounts. In this approach, the focus is on the lived experiences of those deeply familiar with the phenomenon and how they experience the phenomenon as they are going through it, before it is categorized and conceptualized. Each tradition has its own investigative emphasis and particular tools for analysis—specific approaches to coding, memo writing, and final products, such as diagrams, matrices, and condensed reports.