Learning outcomes assessment is a critical part of a program’s success. It can affect a program’s reputation, enrollment, funding, and even its continued existence. Therefore, it’s essential to get useful assessment data without creating an overwhelming burden for busy faculty members. In an interview with Academic Leader, Lisa Shibley, assistant vice president for Institutional Assessment and Planning at Millersville University of Pennsylvania, discussed effective program-level assessment methods.
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
International student and online course enrollments had noted increases for 2010 at U.S. tertiary institutions (Institute of International Education, 2010 & Sloan-C, 2010). These enrollment data remind us that U.S. campuses are continually becoming more culturally and internationally diverse in their student populations. However, this diversity may not always be apparent in the increasing numbers of students taking online courses as the instructor-student interaction is not face-to-face as in seated classes. The latter interaction allows for more awareness of students’ cultural differences and any immediate adjustment in verbal and non-verbal communication as the need arises.
Stronger than multiple choice, yet not quite as revealing (or time consuming to grade) as the essay question, the short answer question offers a great middle ground – the chance to measure a student’s brief composition of facts, concepts, and attitudes in a paragraph or less.
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.
Most college teachers assume that more tests are better than a few. Why? What caused us to decide on three or four unit tests followed by a final? Is there evidence that students don’t do as well in courses where there are only a midterm and a final? Why do we think that more tests might be better? And what do we mean by better? Higher grades? More learning?
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.”
Since Barr and Tagg introduced the concept of the instructional versus the learner-centered paradigms in 1995, higher education institutions across the country have adopted the concept in one form or another in an attempt to create learning environments that respond both to the changing profile of our students and recent research on learning with the ultimate goal of improving student success.
Most faculty judiciously avoid having students self-assess because it seems hopelessly naïve to imagine them being able to look at anything beyond the desired grade. Even so, the ability to self-assess skills and completed work is important. Moreover, it is an ability acquired with practice and developed with feedback. It seems like the kind of skill that should be addressed in college. And perhaps there is a way.
Internships are integral parts of many professional degree programs. Potentially, they make significant contributions to an educational experience. “Well-organized and carefully supervised programs enhance the student’s ability to integrate academic knowledge with practical application, improve job/career opportunities after graduation, create relevance for past and future classroom learning, develop work place social and human relations skills, and provide the opportunity for students to apply communication and problem-solving skills.” (p. 208) Deborah F. Beard identifies these contributions in an article on assessing internship experiences in the field of accounting.
Faculty usually hold a set of beliefs that make the whole topic of learning outcome assessment seem boring, useless, or both.