This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Equity and inclusion underlie instructor assessment choices amid COVID-19 pandemic




Lamb, Todd

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Biological Sciences


The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak mandated a rapid transition to online classes with little warning. Previous literature studying the effect of this sudden shift demonstrated enormous impacts on instructors and students. However, the details concerning instructor assessment choices during this time are less clear. In chapter one of this work, we asked biology instructors to reflect on the changes they made to their assessments of student learning during the emergency transition to remote instruction in spring of 2020 and whether the potential changes were motivated by equity concerns. We also asked that instructors describe the assessment changes they intended to keep in future semesters. Through qualitative analyses, we found that instructors removed components of assessment more often than they added them, and the most common changes included how instructors administered exams and engaged students through participation. Instructors reported that equity concerns motivated their decision-making, particularly their concern over students’ ability to access learning resources. Instructors indicated they would keep many of the changes they made in response to COVID-19. Our research shows the pandemic dramatically altered how instructors assessed students in biology, but equity-based decisions leading to lasting change may be one positive outcome for future students. What is Discipline-Based Education Research? Discipline-Based Education Research (DBER) is a collection of related research fields all in STEM. DBER researchers in physics, chemistry, engineering, biology, the geosciences, and astronomy study similar problems, use similar methods, and draw on similar theories and usually collaborate with each other to achieve goals successfully. The goals of DBER are to understand how people learn the concepts, practices, and ways of thinking of science and engineering; understand the nature and development of expertise in a discipline, help identify and measure appropriate learning objectives and instructional approaches that advance students toward those objectives; contribute to the knowledge base in a way that can guide the translation of DBER findings to classroom practice; and identify approaches to make science and engineering education broad and inclusive (Singer et al., 2012). In 2011, the American Association for the Advancement of Science with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) met with faculty, administrators, students, and other stakeholders to discuss specifically, biology education research and how it could become more successful in future efforts. This discussion brought about the report “Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education- A Call to Action” This report provided a set of principles to direct undergraduate biology education reform. This report also stipulated important guidance for best practices in pedagogy, the input of undergraduate students, and a lens for broadening participation and truly making biology inclusive of all students (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2009).