New CMJ-NBME Dissertation Fellow Selected to Promote Diversity and Equity in Measurement

Posted May 8, 2024
A photograph of Ishita Ahmed.

Ishita Ahmed Aims to Change the Landscape of Global Education Policy Evaluation and Assessment


Ishita Ahmed was selected as the 2024 recipient of the CMJ-NBME Dissertation Fellowship, a program designed to promote diversity and anti-racist assessment and measurement practices. Ahmed was chosen because of her strong commitment toward creating a justice-focused assessment and measurement system.

“We are so excited that our partnership with CMJ will help support Ishita in completing her dissertation and advancing her professional career,” Allison Acevedo, NBME Director of Community Collaborations and Contributions, said. “Her approach to assessment centers on examining executive functions and aims to make measurement more inclusive of lived experiences. We look forward to the contributions Ishita will make to the assessment field.” 

Ahmed is a doctoral candidate for international comparative education and developmental and psychological sciences at Stanford University. She sees a great opportunity during the fellowship to learn from a network of people who are passionate about creating justice-focused measurement. She is excited to learn from the community of researchers and practitioners at CMJ and NBME, especially about how her research can translate to other educational environments.

“Having a future where all learners, regardless of their backgrounds, are able to experience assessments that validate their cultural identities is crucial,” Ahmed said. “That is why I am looking forward to learning from people who share this important vision.”  The CMJ-NBME Fellowship is a competitive academic program for individuals historically underrepresented in measurement. The fellowship provides a stipend to conduct dissertation level research on assessment justice. The fellowship helps create opportunities to expand social networks, build research and career skills and garner support in transitioning into professional roles.

"I was inspired by Ishita’s comprehensive commitment to equity and justice, broadly speaking,” Jennifer Randall, PhD, CMJ President said. “It is an honor to support the application of that commitment in the assessment/space."

As a Bangladeshi American, Ahmed brings a unique perspective to the fellowship’s goal of promoting a more anti-racist assessment and measurement field. Ahmed feels that her experiences bridging two cultures while growing up have made her more aware of how different contexts influence education and learning.

Ahmed’s research demonstrates the various cultural expectations and assumptions within the learning process and the importance of tailoring approaches to support children from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Her goal is to transform the field of global education policy evaluation and assessment by introducing a new framework that modifies basic learning measures.

She has set out to identify learning situations in rural Bangladesh where children are using Executive Functions (EFs), a set of higher-order cognitive processes that support lifelong social and psychological development. EFs rapidly develop during early childhood and continue growing throughout adolescence, helping children think, learn and behave in a goal-directed manner.

“Most EF assessments are currently being developed in western high-income countries and may not be able to capture the unique ways Bangladeshi children, or other children from low- and middle-income countries, use EFs in everyday learning situations,” Ahmed said.

While conducting field research in rural Bangladesh, Ahmed recognized that there were many ways that the children were using EFs that were not being measured with the current assessments. Her research helped her understand the contextualized ways that the children were using EFs, such as during household chores or religious practices. They were using these cognitive skills outside of the classroom, but the assessments did not account for those experiences. 

“During my fieldwork, one of the most interesting things I noticed was that there were children who were struggling with a lot of the tablet-based direct assessments of EFs. However, in their interviews, both the children and their parents talked about all the different ways that the children were using EFs in their everyday lives,” Ahmed said. “I wanted to identify the skills that were not being captured and figure out how to create and adapt measures that better account for the experiences the children were having every day.”  

NBME and CMJ are committed to advancing research that promotes diversity and equity in the assessment field and are excited about Ahmed’s research toward promoting more equitable education for all.  

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