March 30, 2009

Faculty Love It, Just Don’t Call It Assessment

By: in Educational Assessment

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In the corporate world, there’s long been talk of breaking down the workplace silos that often prevent true company-wide communication, collaboration, and growth. Now colleges are looking to get faculty out of their silos, as well. The catalyst? That old nemesis: learning outcomes assessment.

Although many faculty may feel today’s push for greater accountability and transparency creates an administrative chore that’s both time-consuming and intrusive, without providing truly meaningful data to justify the additional work it generates, faculty also are the ones with the best understanding of what they want their students to know, value, and do, says Gary Gigliotto, associate vice president of academic affairs at Rutgers University.

During last week’s online seminar Five Keys: Engaging Faculty in Learning Outcomes Assessment, Gigliotti talked about the fact that most faculty are doing more assessment than they realize. They simply may not recognize certain activities, such as class surveys or mid-year evaluations, as assessments. What’s more, due largely to the academic culture and structure, these assessment activities usually are loosely organized and not shared across departments.


To build the institutional structures that will engage faculty, and encourage sharing and innovation based on assessment results, Gigliotti recommends the following five steps:

  1. Codify current assessment practices
  2. Assess what matters most to faculty
  3. Take simple steps
  4. Innovate based on assessment results
  5. Encourage the scholarship of teaching

“If program assessment is ever to be taken seriously and used effectively, it must be built into the very structure of the program or department by the faculty themselves,” says Gigliotti. “In my experience, once faculty see that a systematic approach not only has value to the department, but helps them have more meaningful teaching experiences, they get excited. They want to try different things and talk about what they’re doing. Most importantly, it makes engagement with students and with faculty in other disciplines more enriching and worthwhile.”

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