A mixed method study of ethical issues in classroom assessment in Chinese higher education

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to explore Chinese university professors’ decisions about ethical issues in classroom assessment. A survey with fifteen scenarios that describe professors’ thoughts about ethics in assessment practices was administrated to 555 professors from 143 colleges and universities in 29 provinces in China. The results of the quantitative analysis indicated that professors’ interest in professional development related to classroom assessment, and their dispositions were significantly associated with their agreement with experts in the field of classroom assessment. Professors’ gender, highest degree, professional rank, and years of teaching experience did not significantly predict their agreement. The qualitative analysis revealed that maintaining fair assessment vs being caring to students and asserting professors’ rights vs abiding by university policy were the crucial aspects for professors to consider in classroom assessment. Findings of the study could help educators identify ethical issues in assessment, develop guidelines to ensure fair assessment, and incorporate differentiated strategies in professional development workshops in higher education.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Airasian, P. (2000). Assessment in the classroom: A concise approach (2nd ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Beets, P. A. D. (2012). Strengthening morality and ethics in educational assessment through Ubuntu in South Africa. Educational Philosophy and Theory,44, 68–83.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Boon, H. (2011). Raising the bar: Ethics education for quality teachers. Australian Journal of Teacher Education,36, 76–93.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Brandt, D., & Rose, C. (2004). Global networking and universal ethics. AI & Society,18(4), 334–343.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Brookhart, S. M., & Nitko, A. J. (2008). Assessment and grading in classrooms. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Campbell, E. (2013). Cultivating moral and ethical professional practice. In M. Sanger & R. Osguthorpe (Eds.), The moral work of teaching and teacher education: Preparing and supporting practitioners (pp. 29–44). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Chappuis, J., Stiggins, R., Chappuis, S., & Arter, J. (2012). Classroom assessment for student learning: Doing it right-using it well (2nd ed.). Boston: Pearson.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Coburn, C. E. (2005). Shaping teacher sensemaking: School leaders and the enactment of reading policy. Educational Policy,19(3), 476–509.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Fan, X., Johnson, R., Liu, J., Zhang, X., Liu, X., & Zhang, T. (2019). A comparative study of pre-service teachers’ views on ethical issues in classroom assessment in China and the United States. Frontiers of Education in China.,14(2), 309–332.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Fan, X., Johnson, R., & Liu, X. (2017). Chinese university professors’ perceptions about ethical issues in classroom assessment practices. New Waves Educational Research & Development,20(2), 1–19.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice: Psychological theory and women’s development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Glanzer, P. L., & Ream, T. C. (2007). Has teacher education missed out on the “ethics boom”? A comparative study of ethics requirements and courses in professional majors of Christian colleges and universities. Christian Higher Education,6(4), 271–288.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Green, S., Johnson, R., Kim, D., & Pope, N. (2007). Ethics in classroom assessment practices: Issues and attitudes. Teaching and Teacher Education,23(7), 999–1011.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Gronlund, N. (2003). Assessment of student achievement (7th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Plato (2009). Republic. In R. C. Solomon, C. W. Martin, & W. Vaught (Eds.), Book I. Morality and the good life: An introduction to ethics through the classical sources (5th ed.), G. M.A. Grube, trans. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill.

  16. Haladyna, T. M., Nolen, S. B., & Haas, N. S. (1991). Raising standardized achievement test scores and the origins of test score pollution. Educational Researcher,20, 2–7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Husu, J. (2001). Teachers at cross-purposes: A case-report approach to the study of ethical dilemmas in teaching. Journal of Curriculum and Supervision,17(1), 67–89.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Johnson, R., Green, S., Kim, D., & Pope, N. (2008). Educational leaders’ perceptions about ethical assessment practices. The American Journal of Evaluation,29(4), 520–530.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation. (2003). The student evaluation standards. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Liu, B., & Li, Y. (2010). Opportunities and barriers: Gendered reality in Chinese higher education. Frontiers of Education in China,5(2), 197–221.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Liu, J., Johnson, R., & Fan, X. (2016). A comparative study of Chinese and United States pre-service teachers’ perceptions about ethical issues in classroom assessment. Studies in Educational Evaluation,48, 56–66.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Liu, Y. S. (2007). Women entering the elite group: A progress with heavy cost. Beijing Normal University First Educational Sociology Forum Proceedings,2, 508–531.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Mehrens, W. A., & Kaminski, J. (1989). Methods for improving standardized test scores: Fruitful, fruitless, or fraudulent? Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice,8(1), 14–22.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Miles, M. B., Huberman, A. M., & Saldaña, J. (2014). Qualitative data analysis: A methods sourcebook. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    Google Scholar 

  25. National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. (2008). Professional standards for the accreditation of teacher preparation institutions. Retrieved from https://www.ncate.org/public/standards.asp.

  26. O’Leary, M. O. (2008). Towards an agenda for professional development in assessment. Journal of In-service Education,34, 109–114.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Oosterhof, A. (2009). Developing and using classroom assessments (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Ory, J., & Ryan, K. (1993). Tips for improving testing and grading. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Özbek, O. (2013). Physical education teachers’ types of analyzing professional ethical dilemmas. Life Science Journal,10(1), 2670–2678.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Pope, N., Green, S., Johnson, R., & Mitchell, M. (2009). Examining teacher ethical dilemmas in classroom assessment. Teaching and Teacher Education,25, 778–782.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Pope, N. S. (2006). Do no harm to whom?. An examination of ethics and assessment. South Atlantic Philosophy of Education Society Yearbook (pp. 25–31).

  32. Popham, W. J. (1991). Appropriateness of teachers’ test preparation practices. Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice,10(4), 12–15.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Popham, W. J. (2000). Modern educational measurement: Practical guidelines for educational leaders. Needham, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Popham, W. J. (2017). Classroom assessment: What teachers need to know (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Quesenberry, L. G., Phillips, J., Woodburne, P., & Yang, C. (2012). Ethics assessment in a general education programme. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education.,37(2), 193–213.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Richardson, D., & Onwuegbuzie, A. J. (2004). Attitudes toward dispositions of teachers. Academic Exchange Quarterly,8(3), 31–35.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Ryan, A. (1997). Professional obligement: A dimension of how teachers evaluate their students. Journal of Curriculum and Supervision,12(2), 118–134.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Sax, G. (1974). Principles of educational measurement and evaluation. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Spillane, J. P. (1999). State and local government relations in the era of standards-based reform: Standards, state policy instruments, and local instructional policy making. Educational Policy,13(4), 546–572.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Stiggins, R. J., Frisbie, R. J., & Griswold, P. A. (1989). Inside high school grading practices: Building a research agenda. Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice,8(2), 5–14.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Strike, K., & Soltis, J. (1992). The ethics of teaching (2nd ed.). New York: Teachers College Press.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Taylor, K., & Nolen, S. (2005). Classroom assessment: Supporting teaching and learning in real classrooms. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Thorndike, R., Cunningham, G., Thorndike, R., & Hagen, E. (1991). Measurement and evaluation in psychology and education (5th ed.). New York: MacMillan.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Tierney, R. D. (2013). Fairness as a multifaceted quality in classroom assessment. Studies in Educational Evaluation,43, 55–69.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Tirrir, K. (1999). Teachers’ perceptions of moral dilemmas at school. Journal of Moral Education,28(1), 31–47.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Waley, A. (Trans.). (1989). The analects of Confucius. New York: Vintage Books.

  47. Warnick, B. R., & Silverman, S. K. (2011). A framework for professional ethics courses in teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education,62(3), 273–285.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Wiggins, G. (1994). None of the above. Executive Educator,16(7), 14–18.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Worthen, B. R., White, K. R., Fan, X., & Sudweeks, R. (1998). Measurement and assessment in the schools (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon of Pearson.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Xumei Fan.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Appendix: Scenarios and percent of respondents who agreed with experts

Appendix: Scenarios and percent of respondents who agreed with experts

Scenarios % Agreement
Fairness/bias  
 1. To enhance self-esteem, a professor addresses only students' strengths when giving feedback to her students’ assignments since she believes that positive feedback is good for students’ growth 48.0
 10. A professor who knows a student had a bad week because of problems at home bumps the student's participation grade up a few points to compensate for his bad score on a quiz 63.3
Communication about grading  
 5. For the class-level final exam, a professor uses a few surprise items about additional topics that were covered in class but were not listed in the study guide 9.4
 7. When assigning a team project to work on collaboratively, a professor does not provide rubrics on how it will be graded, stating instead that he will assign a score based on students’ overall performance on the project 31.4
 11. At the beginning of the semester, a professor shares with students the rubrics for each task. The professor leads students in a discussion about the rubrics, makes changes to the rubrics according to students’ feedback, and gives students the final versions to guide their completion of the course tasks 92.5
Confidentiality  
 2. A professor does not grade all class-level quizzes. Instead, he lets students grade each other’s paper and then share the results in groups 19.9
9. At the beginning of the class, when a student requests to see her grade of a final exam, her professor shows the student the whole score sheet that includes all students’ final scores 73.2
Grading practice  
 4. As a professor finalizes grades, she notices the grade of a student is in between B+ and A. She gave the student an A− because tests and papers showed the student had mastered the course objectives even though he had not completed some of his homework assignments 80.8
 8. In grading a final exam, a professor always reads the student’s name and considers effort in assigning grades 65.0
 12. A professor is concerned that most students did not perform well on the class-level mid-term test. Based on the results, it has become mathematically impossible for about 70% of students to earn a passing grade. Thus, the professor adds 20 points to each student’s mid-term score to make sure most students still have a chance to pass at the end of the semester 63.9
 15. A college professor counts students’ attendance as 20% of their final grades 17.8
Multiple assessment opportunities  
 3. A professor uses observational checklists, anecdotal notes, and interviews in assessing students 87.2
 14. An instructor uses only multiple-choice questions in the end-of-course exam. She justifies this practice by stating multiple-choice questions can be graded objectively and efficiently 71.7
Test administration  
 6. While administering a final exam, a professor notices that a student has skipped a problem and is recording all of her answers out of sequence on the answer sheet. The professor shows the student where to record the answer she is working on, and instructs the student to put the answer to each question with the same number on the answer sheet 34.0
 13. While administering a class-level mid-term test, a professor notices that most students missed the same question. The professor reminds all students to check their answers to that question one more time 80.2

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Fan, X., Liu, X. & Johnson, R.L. A mixed method study of ethical issues in classroom assessment in Chinese higher education. Asia Pacific Educ. Rev. 21, 183–195 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12564-019-09623-y

Download citation

Keywords

  • Classroom assessment
  • Higher education
  • Ethical issues
  • Mixed method