Culturally Responsive Assessments in Education

Bridging Divides: Can Our Assessments Be Culturally Inclusive?
Join CEMA for an engaging PhD to research cultural responsiveness in assessments. Investigate biases, and design an equitable, valid framework. A unique, exciting opportunity. 

In the ever-evolving educational landscape, an increasingly global classroom demands innovative, culturally responsive, and inclusive approaches. Our educational assessments are central to this process. Are these assessment tools and processes effectively addressing cultural diversity within the learning environments? This engaging PhD project titled 'Developing and Implementing Culturally Responsive Assessments in Diverse Educational Settings: A Multifaceted Study on Validity, Equity, and Technological Integration' provides an exciting opportunity to delve into these pressing questions.

Our study focuses on the exploration of cultural responsiveness in existing assessment methods. It sets the stage for a comprehensive investigation into the potential biases that could be influencing student performance. Are there discernible patterns that suggest the existence of cultural biases in our current assessment systems? How do these biases, if present, impact the overall fairness and effectiveness of our educational assessments? This research project seeks to illuminate these pivotal concerns and contribute to a fairer, more inclusive design and process for student assessments. 

An integral part of our research aims to propose a framework for culturally responsive assessments. This framework is intended to guide all stages of the assessment design process: from conceptualization and test creation to scoring and result interpretation. It is a vision to incorporate culturally responsive elements throughout, ensuring that our assessments are not merely culturally responsive, but also exhibit enhanced validity, fairness, and equity.

This project also ventures into the integration of technology to improve assessment design and process. The study aims to understand the role technology can play in supporting culturally responsive assessments. It questions whether technology can aid in presenting diverse forms of content representation and expression. Can it facilitate deeper learning and enhance effective agency among students? These are the intriguing questions the student will get to explore as part of this project, under the guidance of an interdisciplinary team of experts in the field of educational assessment.

At the Centre for Educational Measurement and Assessment (CEMA), our guiding vision is to develop robust and innovative methods of educational assessment that align with the rich cultural diversity present in today's global classrooms. Our team consists of experienced and dedicated researchers and academics, including -

  • Professor James Tognolini, Director - Centre for Educational Measurement and Assessment 

  • Dr Jon Twing, Honorary Research Fellow, Centre for Educational Measurement and Assessment

  • Dr Sofia Kesidou, Associate Professor

The successful PhD candidate will get an opportunity to contribute to this dynamic, multi-faceted research project that addresses a vital gap in the current discourse around educational assessment. The researcher will also have the chance to develop a comprehensive understanding of assessment systems and their interplay with cultural responsiveness, equity, and technological integration.

The aim of this study is to advance cultural inclusivity in educational assessments across diverse contexts. The study is poised to critically examine potential cultural biases in current assessment methodologies, comprehend their effects on fairness, and strategize solutions to improve overall assessment design for enhanced validity. A cornerstone of this research is the creation of a pioneering framework that shapes the design of culturally responsive assessments. This framework ensures the assessments are not merely culturally relevant and responsive, but also maintain rigorous standards. 

Moreover, the project seeks to study the role of technology in enhancing the design and delivery of such assessments, enabling diverse content representation and fostering deeper learning experiences. 

The overarching aim is to confront and address a critical void in the discourse on educational assessments, propelling us towards a future of inclusivity and fairness in culturally diverse classrooms.

  • Excellent supervision and mentorship from a multidisciplinary team with extensive experience

  • Opportunity for engagement with industry leaders in educational measurement and policy advisory roles

  • Wide-ranging prospects for professional development and expanding network

  • Support in converting research findings into impactful and scalable solutions 

Applicants are invited to submit a proposal for PhD research that aligns directly to this project. 

Prospective candidates may qualify for direct entry into the PhD program if their research proposal (see above) is accepted and they satisfy at least one of the criteria listed below.

  • Bachelor's degree with first- or second-class honours in an appropriate area of study that includes a research thesis based on primary data not literature review

  • Master's degree by research in an appropriate area of study that includes a research thesis that draws on primary data 

  • Master's degree by coursework, with a research thesis or dissertation of 12,000–15,000 words that draws on primary data not literature review, with a grade-point average of at least 80 per cent in the degree.

  • Demonstrated appropriate professional experience and alternative qualifications in the field of study.

For more information regarding applying for a PhD refer to the course details for Doctor of Philosophy (Arts and Social Sciences).

Please also refer to guidelines for preparing a research proposal. 

A number of scholarships are available to support your studies.

Australian Government RTP Scholarship (International)

University of Sydney International Scholarship

University of Sydney Tuition Fee Scholarship


These scholarships will provide a stipend allowance of $37,207 per annum for up to 3.5 years. 

For other scholarship opportunities refer to FASS Research Scholarships (International) 

For further details about the PhD project contact Professor James Tognolini, Director - Centre for Educational Measurement and Assessment, School of Education and Social Work, FASS

Please note that these opportunities are open to International students only.