Bristol Conversations in Education - Extrapolating the widening participation agenda to the recruitment of underserved groups in medical research: Assessment, ethnicity, and language

2 October 2019, 12.00 PM - 2 October 2019, 1.00 PM

Dr Talia Isaacs, UCL Institute of Education, University College London

Room 4.05/06, School of Education, 35 Berkeley Square, Bristol, BS8 1JA

This event is part of the School of Education's 'Bristol Conversations in Education' seminar series. These seminars are free and open to the public.

Speaker: Dr Talia Isaacs, UCL Institute of Education, University College London

Widening participation has long been a strategic objective in UK higher education, with government targets for increasing the diversity of student intake in university admissions (e.g., HEFCE; see Rose et al., 2019). The argument for catering to a wider demographic naturally extends to the healthcare sector, including health intervention research, which tests the safety and effectiveness of different medical treatments for patients (Bartlett et al., 2005). Although examining the composition of the recruited sample in a study and the extent to which it is representative of the target population to which the results will be extrapolated has not traditionally been a focus in health intervention research in the UK (Brown et al., 2014), there are some signs of change. One informal indicator is ongoing work of a National Institute for Healthcare Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network (CRN) on including underserved/underrepresented groups in the context of clinical trials (Rochester et al., in progress). This project is likely to inform future requirements for research funding applications.

In this talk, couched under the broader theme of trends in the field of language assessment, interdisciplinarity, and the role of our professional associations, I will discuss why this specific-purposes topic is relevant. Language testers need to be engaging and lending their expertise to different stakeholder groups, including domain experts from different fields, as part of what has been termed as “indigenous assessment” (Jacoby & McNamara, 1999). This is particularly important to improve the quality of assessments that are used for gatekeeping purposes to promote social justice (principles of inclusion, equitability, fairness, etc.; Shohamy, 2001). By way of an example, I will focus specifically on the role of language as a criterion for including or excluding patients from participating in trials (Isaacs et al., 2016). I will argue that adequate operationalization of the language proficiency construct is potentially high stakes for patients in this context and should be a research priority, notwithstanding barriers to conducting interdisciplinary research.


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Emma Rossiter


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