5 Asset-Based Pedagogy

An asset based approach shifts the focus from ‘what’s wrong with us’ to ‘what’s right with us.’ It assumes that, even though there may be problems, sometimes very serious ones, there are also untapped resources and capacities inherent in every individual, organization, or community which can be put into use to improve current conditions. Discovering and affirming these underutilized assets and untapped potential are hallmarks of an asset based approach.”

In a nutshell, adopting an asset-based approach to assessment asks you to add a layer of personalization to your authentic assessment strategy. What does that mean? Well, who are your students? What are they bringing to the class? Their previous experiences, their community, their identity, their unique perspective, all of these personal characteristics can add relevance and increase engagement to your assessment strategy when woven into the design.

Asset-Based Engagement Model

  • Encourage students to think about their characteristics, skills, values, or roles that they view as important
  • Encourage brave spaces to help students think of themselves, and others, in ways that move beyond a threatened identity
  • Allow students to apply their learning to real-life situations and to consider how their life experience and knowledge gained in the course will integrate into their future careers
  • Show video clips and/or use case examples of peers and/or local community using knowledge or skills relevant to the course to address real-world problems
  • Allow students to apply course concepts to contemporary social problems (integrating relevant internships and service learning)

Authentic assessments ask students to perform real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful applications of what they are learning in your course. The idea is that we are preparing students to succeed in performing real-world tasks that they will encounter when they graduate. Our knowledge and skills do not exist in a vacuum separate from ourselves. It is just a part of who we are as individuals, as members of a community. Adopting an asset-based approach to assessment simply acknowledges that fact and creates opportunities for more holistic measurements of proficiency.

In more traditional methods of assessment what a student can and will demonstrate as proficiency is often confined within a structure that has been crafted by the person who developed the assessment. Their focus is limited to what is on the test. In contrast, an asset-based approach to assessment allows for more student choice, voice and construction of the evidence of their proficiency. Even if students do not choose the topic or format, there is an intentional flexibility designed into the assessment that allows students to engage personally with the material and for you to capture more direct evidence of the application and construction of their knowledge and skills. For example, in a multiple-choice question, we cannot be sure how or why students choose their answers. What thinking led the student to pick the correct or incorrect response? We can guess or infer, but the evidence of their learning is ultimately indirect. Personalization is a key element in adapting an asset-based approach to design. Let who your students are become a part of their learning experience.

Personalization of Learning Community

  • Get to know your students, their individual perspectives, skills, experiences, and ideas that they bring into your course.
  • Ask students to complete a survey that asks about their prior educational and life experiences relevant to the course.
  • Incorporate learning opportunities that are local, community-based and driven by student voices (discussions, reflections, or projects using journaling, videos, or pictures).
  • Provide multiple opportunities for students to reflect on the course and give you feedback on the methods and strategies used in the course. Encourage students to propose alternatives, and consider implementing their suggestions.
  • Include reading material that demonstrates the contributions of diverse scholars and/or relevant community organizations.
  • Incorporate testimonials from professionals or college graduates of diverse backgrounds to learn how they grappled with and achieved relevant educational or career goals.
  • Communicate that racial/ethnic, cultural, gender, age, social class, and other kinds of human difference are important and valued.

Additional resources:

CETL Diversity Readiness Rubric

The Diversity Readiness Rubric: Talk the Talk or Walk the Walk

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