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Measures of equity

Importance in education research

There are two parts to measuring equity: 1) defining equity and 2) quantifying equity. At times, DBER publications have failed to explicitly operationalize the outcomes of interest (Rodriguez et al., 2012; Nissen & Van Dusen, under review), making it difficult to determine if their objectives were, in fact, met. Unlike the broader education research and data science communities, DBER often quantifies change using normalized learning gain, a measure with no theoretical underpinning. Nissen, Talbot, Thompson, & Van Dusen (2018) found that different commonly used methods for quantifying change could bias findings and lead to different conclusions.

Equity issue

There are two ways that DBER scholars’ measures of equity can obscure inequities. First, equity DBER is often designed to measure whether equity was achieved, but studies rarely operationalize equity. A common implicit operationalization is equality of learning, in which all students gain the same amount (Rodriguez et al., 2012). This is a weak form of equity that does not address existing inequities. The second issue is how equity is quantified. For example, normalized learning gain can obscure inequities by favoring students with high-pretest scores and hiding differences across pretest scores (Nissen et al., 2018).


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