Concurrently, there are challenges associated with providing support for minority students, such as lack of resourcing, difficulties ensuring a holistic approach to the issue, and staff attitudes and practices regarding teaching minority students. Thus, the issue of retaining underrepresented students becomes specifically acute and must be addressed. Although data collection in terms of student outcomes disaggregated by race is fundamental, tangible outcomes depend on the extent to which institutions can transform these results into actionable data. As Harris and Bensimon (2007) put it, “The barriers to organizational learning inherent in the structure and culture of institutions of higher education are explanatory factors for the limited impact accountability systems have within the classroom, the counseling center, the student activities office, and the learning resources center, among others” (p.78). The Equity Scorecard developed to provide evidence-based awareness of the obstacles underlying racially determined diversity of outcomes seeks to provide the best assessment for the first objective.
Unlike the general practice of attributing bad outcomes of students to their personal characteristics or external circumstances, this tool is designed to assess the internal institutional problems and empowers educational organizations to create desirable conditions for equitable educational outcomes. The fundamental premise here is that tacit knowledge results in learning problems and outcomes (Harris & Bensimon, 2007). In the context of the university setting, the lack of cultural knowledge about students leads to an outdated teaching system.
The Equity Scorecard is used in this study from the standpoint of exploring those cultural and social barriers for students of different racial backgrounds that are not considered in the learning process. Highlighting these criteria will allow for a more conscious approach to changing the learning and teaching practices, curriculum, and other essential components of the university, which, as a result, will potentially lead to increased engagement, support, and a general sense of the community among students.
The Equity Scorecard cycle of inquiry presupposes ten distinct concepts that are to be assessed and included into practice: knowledge (promotion of new knowledge through CUE Tools, for example defining Equity Module); attitudes and beliefs (including behavioral beliefs and risks, control beliefs, and norm beliefs); behavioral intentions; behaviors; capacity building through teams and teamwork; problem identification through data analysis; reflection; problem-solving intentions; experimentation and problem solving; and adaptive expertise (Aguirre, 2012). Thus, essential strategies include using data disaggregated by racial-ethnic groups and setting performance and equity goals for specific cohorts of students.
Since the objective is to increase engagement, support, and sense of community, the first step is to identify the problems or obstacles that impede productive participation and form a healthy and diverse university environment.
The design of the study is a case study involving two series of semi-structured interviews. The first set of interviews will consist of a sample of students, the second series of interviews will be conducted with the teaching and administrative staff. Interviews with students will include questions related to their learning problems, difficulties, obstacles, and expectations, visions, and suggestions. The latter set of interviews will focus on studying the staff’s beliefs and expectations. Thus, the inquiry circle will start by gathering data about the second, third, and fourth aspects. Then, the problem identification through data analysis will take place. With the help of qualitative content analysis of the interviews, the researcher will outline the gaps and mismatches in the tacit knowledge of teachers and learners. The third step will include reflection and problem-solving intentions, and to implement this, two sub-steps will be undertaken. First, based on the data analysis and educational theory implementation, the researcher will come up with some specific suggestions, and then a focus group will be conducted with all the learning process practitioners. The latter’s sample will be balanced in such a way that it meets the criterion of a productive focus group (Nyumba et al., 2018). Finally, the commonly found solutions will be implemented into practice, and, if successful, the adaptive expertise will be formed.
Validity and Reliability
A case study is an empirical study that conducts an in-depth study of an occurring event or process, especially when it is impossible to clearly define the boundaries between the event and the accompanying factors (i.e., the environment) (Aguirre, 2012). Constructive validity, in this case, is determined by the use of multiple sources of information, the possession of the answers of all key respondents, and the creation of a logical chain of presentation of the information received. Internal validity is ensured by the formulation of an explanatory basis and the use of an established methodological basis for investigating the problem. Reliability is ensured by the use of a research protocol, as well as a comprehensive research database.
Limitations, Ethics, and Social Accountability
The study’s main limitation is the impossibility of direct generalization of research results to other institutions since the design of the study assumed an emphasis on problem-solving of a specific organization. Research ethics is ensured by the anonymization of respondents’ answers at the stage of the interview and full compliance with the rules for conducting a focus group (for example, the desire and ability of respondents to participate in its conduct). Social accountability is ensured by careful implementation of the research’s results into practice with further control and assessment.
Increasing Retention and Graduation
The case study described in the first section aims to ensure the attainability of the set goal to retention and graduation of students of color by 30% in two years. Evaluation of the effectiveness of the application of research results and the achievement of a quantitative indicator, thus, occurs through a quantitative assessment using a specific tool – Diversity Scorecard. Since, in many ways, the Diversity Scorecard Model is similar to the Equity Scorecard Model, the emphasis in this part of the study will be on quantitative indicators.
This tool is designed to measure the progress towards diversity achievement. More specifically, it is used to monitor and assess quantitative data related to intra-institutional racial biases and obstacles to equity in educational outcomes (Bensimon, 2014). Quantitative indicators are an integral part of analyzing the big picture and its changes over time. Thus, the interrelated goals identified in this study mutually complement each other.
The Diversity Scorecard will measure the indicators among the same population as studied through the Equity Scorecard cycle of inquiry (see the previous section). The first step is to disaggregate primary data by race and ethnicity (Bensimon, 2014). Step two is to measure how the goals and problem-solving instruments are implemented in practice. The independent variables, thus, are socio-demographic characteristics of the students (age, race, ethnicity, gender, and others). The dependent variables are retention rates, excellence rates, and graduation rates. The type of assessment is summative, relying on descriptive statistics.
Validity and Reliability
Since the object of research remains constant during the research, diachronic reliability is ensured as the stability of the measurement. The requirements for the representativeness of the study are met by the continuous inclusion of all objects of the general population. Internal validity is ensured by using established metrics to assess retention rates, excellence rates, and graduation rates.
Limitations, Ethics, and Social Accountability
Compliance with ethical principles is ensured by the anonymity of data, as well as adherence to the internal rules of the University. As in the first part of the study, the main limitations relate to the generalization of the results since the sample consisted of the whole population complementing the case study. Social accountability is ensured by the researcher’s and learning practitioners ‘further actions upon the data and results obtained.
Aguirre, T. A. (2012). Evaluating the impact of CUE’s Equity Scorecard tools on practitioner beliefs and practices. University of Southern California.
Bensimon, E.M. (2004) The Diversity Scorecard: A Learning Approach to Institutional Change, Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 36(1), 44-52.
Harris III, F., & Bensimon, E. M. (2007). The equity scorecard: A collaborative approach to assess and respond to racial/ethnic disparities in student outcomes. New directions for student services, 2007(120), 77-84.
Nyumba, O. T., Wilson, K., Derrick, C. J., & Mukherjee, N. (2018). The use of focus group discussion methodology: Insights from two decades of application in conservation. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 9(1), 20-32.