Suzuki is engaged with trying to better understand the myriad circumstances that contribute to performance on standardized tests, particularly cultural and racial or ethnic factors.
“I have been trying to broaden definitions of what constitutes an ability,” explains Lisa Suzuki, Associate Professor in the Department of Applied Psychology. Suzuki is engaged with trying to better understand the myriad circumstances that contribute to performance on standardized tests, particularly cultural and racial or ethnic factors.
“Particular groups will suffer because they don’t necessarily perform as well on standardized test instruments. But ask different kinds of questions, in a different context, and they may do just as well.”
Suzuki began her research at a time when little was known about how different racial and ethnic groups scored on standardized tests. Two of her books, The Handbook of Multicultural Assessment (2001) and Intelligence in Minority Students: Foundations, Performance Factors and Assessment Issues (2001), which she co-edited or co-authored, have helped to narrow that knowledge gap.
Her research, and that of others in the field, has spurred test development companies to change the way that they validate standardized tests and whether they disclose data about variations in performance among racial and ethnic groups. According to Suzuki, consumers, such as school district representatives now want to know, “If I purchase your test how do different groups score, do you release that information in your manual, and if you don’t why don’t you?”
Suzuki welcomes both undergraduate and graduate student participation in her research. “I’ve tried to create teams in which student interests will be integrated into the overall project,” she explains. Students that I’ve worked with are really interested in looking at culture and how it affects behavior and thinking. It hasn’t always been the case that they were interested in testing per se.”
Suzuki recently embarked on a new project to examine how a wide variety of historical events, such as the partition of India and Pakistan, China’s cultural revolution, or the imposition of martial law in the Philippines, has affected the construction of Asian American identities.
The common thread uniting both projects is Suzuki’s desire to enrich our understanding of racial and ethnic minorities, “to really look at the subtleties,” Suzuki explains.“There is so much within group difference. People will talk about African Americans, or Asians, as if they are just one group, but we have to be able to look at the complexities of within group difference. That’s where I think our research really needs to head.”