Michael E. Walker, PhD2023-2024 NCME President
Hello, NCME members. In my first Presidential Message, I wanted to share the rationale for my goals for this year and the evolution of the 2024 NCME Annual Meeting Theme.
This past April, we held our Annual Meeting in Chicago, released from the shadow of COVID-19 after three long years. It was great to see so many people in person again. Yet for some people I spoke with, another specter still loomed. Many expressed a feeling of unease, that somehow they did not feel they belonged in NCME. Most often, the people could not explain to me why they felt isolated, but I can think of possible reasons: race/ethnicity, gender/gender identity, nationality, age, occupation, student status, length of membership – many attributes of the NCME community potentially divide us.
The previous four NCME presidents with whom I have had the pleasure to work – Steve Sireci, Ye Tong, Derek Briggs, and Deborah Harris – each in their own way worked hard to increase diversity, equity, inclusion, and access within NCME. Collectively, the Past Presidents have helped to create a forum within NCME for discussing DEIA, have worked to strengthen the ties between researchers and practitioners, have increased resources for graduate students and early career scholars, and have developed a set of foundational competencies for the field of educational measurement. All these actions, I believe, can help to remove some of the barriers that exist among the membership. Since April, I have tried to continue the work of the Past Presidents by working toward the following goals:
A Welcoming Environment. One common theme running through the past four administrations was the desire to increase the reach and influence of NCME. To do so, I believe we need to create a more welcoming environment in NCME for people from different social and cultural backgrounds. We start by engaging in heart-to-heart dialogue with groups inside and outside of NCME. We need to listen carefully to their views on NCME and on measurement, always prepared to hear things we don’t like and to respond with gratitude for the honesty. Then we need to commit to change as an organization so that we can move in a more positive direction. We need to create safe spaces, such as affinity groups, where people from various backgrounds can build on common experiences to discover how they can benefit from and contribute to the organization.
A Shared Vision. As we engage with different groups, we will gain a greater understanding of the role that measurement plays in people’s lives and how it affects them personally. We similarly benefit from a deeper understanding of our history, including the ways that measurement has been used to stifle rather than advance inclusion and human dignity. From such vantage points, we can collectively begin to develop shared goals. Over the past two years, The Task Force on Foundational Competencies in Measurement did an excellent job of delineating what a new educational measurement professional should know and be able to do. I believe the next step is to draft guidelines on how to use that knowledge ethically and responsibly for the sake of others. At the heart of that responsibility is the acknowledgement of the individual as the driver and the measurement professional as the support.
Research Into Practice. As my final priority, I want to make sure that all the great research conducted by NCME members, as evidenced by the rich variety of sessions at the Annual Meeting, can be translated into tools that educators and assessment specialists can use. NCME will continue to engage with state and local assessment leaders. We do this, for example, by supporting the SALAL SIGIMIE. We need to connect with teachers and teacher educators. Two ways NCME will do this are by supporting the Classroom Assessment Committee in hosting a conference and helping the Committee to secure a venue for classroom assessment research. Finally, NCME will continue to support graduate students and early career professionals. The Graduate Student Issues Committee has done outstanding work in the past. I want to help the committee increase that momentum this year.
Expanding Our Horizon
It is more than others’ perceived reactions to physical and psychological aspects that can lead a person to feel marginalized in NCME. The academy, business, and science in general tend to be conservative in terms of ideas. They have their established ways of doing things, and it is very difficult to stray too far from the accepted path. While in the university, for example, I experienced firsthand and witnessed many times messages like, “You need to stick to mainstream research,” or, “A reputable journal would never publish that,” without so much as a conversation about possibilities. In a similar fashion, with few exceptions, NCME talks tend to fall into well-established categories. Are we missing out? Are we excluding valuable ideas in measurement simply because they do not fit the mold?
People from different backgrounds can perceive the same phenomena differently based on what they find important. As a real-world example, consider four distinct calendrical systems currently in use. The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar with 12 lunar months of 29 or 30 days, resulting in a 354- or 355-day year. The Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar with 12 months ranging from 28 to 31 days, adding up to 365 days. An extra day is added (mostly) every four years to maintain synchrony with the solar year. The Jewish and Chinese calendars are lunisolar calendars with 29- or 30-day months. Intercalary months are added according to set schedules to keep the calendars aligned with the solar year. Although these four calendars are all different, each serves its intended purpose well.
This line of thought led to the 2024 NCME Annual Meeting Theme: Reconceptualizing Measurement Theory and Practice to Reduce Inequities. For the 2024 Annual Meeting, we encourage submissions that challenge traditional conceptions of measurement, explore constructive roles for measurement in reducing inequity, and advance the goal of better reflecting the true nature of every individual.
The expansion of the measurement enterprise not only increases inclusivity, but it also adds to our understanding of the world. In a 1988 essay, Donna Haraway challenged the traditional conception of objective impartiality in science, of the researcher viewing the world as an outside observer – a notion Haraway called the “god-trick.” She argued that the notion of impartiality hid a very specific view of the world (the “dominant” view) and served as an attempt to make that viewpoint universal. She introduced the concept of “situated knowledges,” in which an observer acknowledges their position within the studied space, without abandoning the notion of objectivity. The multiple ways that different people see the same object reflect their limited relation to that object. It stands to reason, then, that we can only get a full picture of any phenomenon by sharing multiple viewpoints.
I hope every NCME member will read the full theme in Section 2 of the Call for Proposals and will treat it as an exhortation to think boldly and to submit ideas that push beyond our traditional conceptions of measurement. Only by embracing our unique perspectives and sharing them with others can we contribute to the furtherance of the enterprise.
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