How can we promote equity in measurement and assessment?

Ye Tong, NBME Senior Vice President, Assessment Operations, shares insights from the 2023 Equity in Measurement and Assessment Conference.

As a psychometrician, I’m obviously passionate about research. While theoretical research is great, I’m most interested in practical research that directly links to impacts. Equity in measurement and assessment, to me, translates into “How are we ensuring that everyone, regardless of their background, has an equitable opportunity to demonstrate what they know and can do?”

To help bring theory to practice, I worked closely with my colleague Linda Gadsby, NBME Senior Vice President, General Counsel, and Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Officer, to start planning the Equity in Measurement and Assessment Conference (EMAC) last summer. The goal of the invitational conference was to bring together measurement, assessment, medical education, and DEI experts to discuss and advance approaches that promote equity and alleviate bias in medical education assessment. We wanted conference participants to come to the table with concrete practices and ideas that could inspire additional thinking and actions.

Moving this idea forward, we reached out to the American Board of Medical Specialties, the American Board of Internal Medicine, and the Association of American Medical Colleges to co-sponsor the conference with us.

What were the most impactful takeaways from EMAC?

The conference created a fantastic platform to foster dialogue and information sharing, and I left with two major takeaways:

  • We are all responsible, and we need to lean into uncomfortable conversations more.
  • Beyond eliminating harmful stereotypes in test content, we should directly challenge these stereotypes.

By challenging long-held assessment practices, some of the conference content made people feel uncomfortable. I consider that a sign of success. To evolve and embed DEI in all aspects of measurement and assessment, it is our responsibility to question our norms.

As the leader of NBME’s Assessment Operations, my teams take great care to help ensure thoughtful consideration of patient characteristics within test items. This includes removing any characteristics that could promote harmful stereotypes or bias. Now I’m reflecting on what it could look like if we are more intentional about patient characteristics that promote the societal changes we want to see, such as black women having their pain heard and validated.

What are the next steps?

NBME is following up with EMAC partners to figure out how we can share the rich content produced from the conference, including the recording of the plenary sessions. Later this summer, we plan to share our learnings through a white paper and more insight into NBME’s DEI work.

I’m looking forward to continued information sharing and evaluating how we can incorporate what we learned into our own practices.

Medical education needs to support the advancement of skills and behaviors alongside knowledge, so students can develop as complete physicians, ready to take on patient care. We’re rethinking measurement to facilitate this evolution, but we can’t do it without new perspectives and ideas.