Diversity, equity, and inclusion across the assessment lifecycle | Part I


Diversity, equity, and inclusion across the assessment lifecycle | Part I


This is Part I in our blog series on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

In the testing industry, we need a united vision and shared commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). We must work together – and work harder – to ensure all groups have access to fair testing, because a lack of DE&I in testing is a wider social justice issue.

What does DE&I in testing look like?

For diversity…

Develop tests that allow for diverse backgrounds and experiences.

For equity…

Remove all unnecessary barriers, so every test taker is treated fairly.

For inclusivity…

Ensure tests are accessible to all, so no test taker is advantaged or disadvantaged.

Why does DE&I matter in testing?

The tests we deliver change lives. They should allow individuals from diverse backgrounds to start or progress in their chosen career or specialty. We have a wider social responsibility. We need to develop and deliver fair tests that are inclusive and accessible to everyone. Our tests must be legally defensible. They need to be compliant with relevant legislative or regulatory requirements related to DE&I.

You want to grow your market. The more accessible your tests are to those from marginalized and underserved communities, the more test takers you will reach.

“We provide assessments that enable people to see their dreams come true. Whether it’s trying to get that next academic achievement, a certification, or a license. And ultimately get a job, get a raise, get a promotion. That’s why we have a sharp focus on DE&I across the assessment lifecycle for all the tests and exams we develop and deliver.” – Isabelle Gonthier Chief Assessment Officer, PSI

Of course, to be meaningful and effective any stated commitment to DE&I needs to be baked into your culture – and the culture of your testing provider. This means a commitment to focus on tangible practices and demonstrable behaviors that are more than just a single assessment or one-off seminar. Equally, considerations for DE&I initiatives cannot be limited to a single timepoint in the assessment lifecycle. They must be continually integrated across the whole assessment lifecycle.

DE&I in test development

Bias in test content can come from many sources, such as use of irrelevant language, cultural nuances, and regional differences. For your tests to be valid, your content must be equally accessible to all eligible test takers. What’s more, biased test content means unreliable outcomes that aren’t an accurate reflection of the competence of your test taker.

“Thinking about the ultimate user when developing a test is critically important. And then every step of the way is essential in making the testing experience valid, reliable and fair – because of the importance of the outcomes for the test taker.” – Pamela Ing Stemmer Senior Director, Psychometric Services, PSI

Working with Subject Matter Experts

When members of a test development team partner with a testing organization and their Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to develop test content, DE&I should always be front of mind. For example, how content experts are writing and reviewing the items is important to ensure they are fair and unbiased. This includes gender, racial, cultural and background bias.

Consider three key areas in the test development process:

1. SME recruitment and selection of a diverse and representative group of SMEs. Including but not limited to:

    • Diversity of demographic characteristics (race / ethnicity / gender identity).
    • Diversity of practice area or specialty.
    • Diversity of experience level (avoid the tendency to only recruit / select long-time practitioners – the voice of the newer practitioner is important).

2. SME training for item writers and reviewers, with discussions around important guidelines, best practice and requirements that adhere to DE&I principles. For example:

    • Encourage item writers and reviewers to acknowledge their own blind spots and foster a commitment to sensitivity and continuous improvement.
    • In item scenarios, using objective descriptions of individuals portrayed in the item.
    • Avoiding unnecessary reference to gender or race / ethnicity e.g., use “patient with limited English proficiency” rather than “patient of Middle Eastern descent”.

3. Item development checklist that support SMEs to adhere to DE&I guidelines and principles throughout the process. For example:

    • Gender balancing across items.
    • Genderless items.
    • Universal scenarios.
    • No slang or idioms.

“If we want to achieve our DE&I goals, there needs to be an understanding of why it’s important. In healthcare, for instance, an item could refer to a white man presenting with a certain medical condition. Consequently, a black woman presenting to the test taker in the future with that same condition might be less likely to get an accurate diagnosis. That’s potentially life changing.” – Shebbra E. Toussaint Senior Director, Client Services, PSI

To continue learning about DE&I across the assessment lifecycle, download our new guide:

DEI Guide Graphic