Academic journal article New Waves

Chinese University Professors' Perceptions about Ethical Issues in Classroom Assessment Practices

Academic journal article New Waves

Chinese University Professors' Perceptions about Ethical Issues in Classroom Assessment Practices

Article excerpt


In Chinese universities it is commonplace for instructors to experience situations in which students complain about unfair grading practices. For example, student complaints focus on professors not providing any grading criteria prior to a test. Instructors also face dilemmas in making difficult choices related to reporting assessment results fairly, considering student effort in grading, and observing university rules in assessment.

These issues in assessment practice are related to the professional ethics that focus on the "principles of conduct." Such ethics guide professionals' behaviors and actions (Brandt & Rose, 2004). Specifically, in the field of education, professional ethics is defined as the "norms, values, and principles that should govern the conduct of educational professionals" (Husu, 2001, p. 68). Ethics has been the focus of studies in higher education (Richman & Alexander, 2007).

Along with the essential roles that ethics play in professional behaviors and actions, these principles of conduct also are considered to be important in educational assessment where ethics addresses the rules of behavior or norms that should govern educators' assessment practices (Johnson, Green, Kim, & Pope, 2008). The issues of morality and ethics should be considered in educational assessment (Pope, 2006). For example, morality is an issue in assessment because poor assessment can significantly affect students, and educators should "Do No Harm" when assessing students (Taylor & Nolen, 2005, p. 7). As one specific case of "Do No Harm," "avoid score pollution" is also applied as an ethical principle in assessment practices (Green, Johnson, Kim, & Pope, 2007). A student's score is "polluted" if it does not accurately reflect his or her mastery of knowledge. This pollution is a result of a teacher considering irrelevant factors, such as student effort or progress, when grading student work. A polluted score will do further harm to the students (Pope, 2006). For example, when receiving a progress report the parents of a student might be misinformed about their child's proficiency in learning to read if the teacher only focuses on the child's gains in reading and omits some of the challenges the student is experiencing. Omission of the challenges pollutes the progress report.

Although there have been many studies about professional ethics, the study of ethics in assessment practice is comparatively recent. For example, Green et al. (2007) studied educators' ethical judgments in relation to assessment and they found that respondents had strong agreement with one another (e.g., 90% agreeing about the ethics of a practice) on fewer than half of the scenarios on ethical issues in the United States. A study by Johnson et al. (2008) documented the division of perceptions between principals and principal candidates on ethical issues in assessment and reported strong agreement on half of the ethical scenarios. Similarly, Pope et al. (2009) studied teachers' ethical dilemmas in classroom assessment. They found that the majority of incidents that participants described centered on score pollution. In a recent study, Liu, Johnson, and Fan (2016) compared Chinese and U.S. pre-service teachers' perceptions about ethical issues in assessment and their findings indicated that the pre-service teachers from China and the U.S. had similar perceptions on 14 out of 36 scenarios. The authors also found that the respondents' perceptions of some scenarios were not in agreement with literature on classroom assessment.

In line with a variety of studies on ethical issues in assessment practice in the United States, ethical issues have also been investigated in other countries including the United Kingdom (O'Leary, 2008), Canada (Tierney, 2013), South Africa (Beets, 2012), and Turkey (Özbek, 2013). In particular, Maxwell, Tremblay-Laprise, Filion, Boon, Daly, Hoven, Heilbronn, Lenselink, & Walters (2016) conducted an international survey related to ethics education in pre-service teaching programs. …

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