higher education assessment
I’m “reflecting” a lot these days. My tenure review is a few months away, and it’s time for me to prove (in one fell swoop) that my students are learning. The complexity of this testimonial overwhelms me because in the context of the classroom experience, there are multiple sources of data and no clear-cut formula for truth.
“We ought to be up to the task of figuring out what it is that our students know by the end of four years at college that they did not know at the beginning.” That’s how Stanley Katz begins a well-written essay that explores the assessment movement in higher education.
Requirements from accreditors and the Higher Education Opportunities Act (HEOA) have made assessment more important than ever. The key to doing it well is adopting sustainable assessment practices, says Linda Suskie, author of Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide.
“In this article, we describe an easily adoptable and adaptable model for a one-credit capstone course that we designed to assess goals at the programmatic and institutional levels.” (p. 523) That’s what the authors claim in the article referenced below, and that’s what they deliver. The capstone course they write about is the culmination of a degree in political science at a public university.
“Creating a climate that maximizes student accomplishment in any discipline focuses on student learning instead of assigning grades. This requires students to be involved as partners in the assessment of learning and to use assessment results to change their own learning tactics.” (p. 136) The authors of this comment continue by pointing out that this assessment involves the use of formative feedback and that feedback has the greatest benefit when it addresses multiple aspects of learning. This kind of assessment should contain feedback on the product (the completed task) and feedback on progress (the extent to which the student is improving over time). The article then describes a number of formative feedback activities that illustrate how students can be involved as partners in the assessment process. Their involvement means that formative feedback can be given more frequently.
Anyone with a 3-year-old knows one of their favorite words is “Why.” As it turns out, asking “why” is a good way to examine your assessment goals and how they align with your institution’s core values.
“My favorite assessment question is ‘Why’ and I ask it over and over again,” said Linda Suskie, president at the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
It is only a slight exaggeration to say that resistance to educational assessment comes from almost as many different sources as there are assessment tools, but in the end the reasons usually all boil down to three main issues:
- Lack of understanding of the value and importance of assessment
- Lack of resources to engage in assessment
- Fear of change and risk taking
Making Sense of Higher Education Assessment Educational Assessment: Designing a System for More Meaningful Results Assessing institutional effectiveness is a noble pursuit, but measuring student learning is not always easy. As with so many things we try to quantify, there’s much more to learning than a number in a datasheet. When it comes to assessment.
Students are very motivated by grades—we all know that. For that reason, it’s useful to consider alternative approaches that might affect not just the motivation to get the grade, but the motivation to learn and develop important skills. Here are highlights from two articles that propose these kinds of intriguing alternatives.
Student learning outcomes assessment can be defined in a lot of different ways, but Lisa R. Shibley, PhD., assistant vice president for Institutional Assessment and Planning at Millersville University, has a favorite definition. It’s from Assessment Clear and Simple: A Practical Guide for Institutions, Departments, and General Education by Barbara E. Walvoord and states that student learning outcomes assessment is “the systematic collection of information about student learning, using time, knowledge, expertise, and resources available in order to inform decisions about how to improve learning.”