“…the depth and meaning of assessment is only as good as the scope and quality of faculty involvement. ” (Kinzie, 2010)
Most academics would agree that faculty tend to dislike the word assessment and the bureaucracy it involves. The reasons vary but essentially it’s viewed as a time-consuming distraction from the art of teaching and many also believe grades are more than sufficient indicators of student content mastery. One of the challenges with assessment is that it is often imposed on faculty by academic leaders who must prepare data and reports to meet more stringent accountability requirements from accreditors.
So an important initial consideration for provosts, deans, and department chairs is to think about how to get faculty involved early and often in the development of a campus assessment approach. According to Kinzie’s focus group summary on student learning outcome assessment, faculty were highly engaged and energized when reviewing student work and the extent to which these artifacts validate student learning (2010).
Fortunately, there are several solutions to the argument that assessment takes too much time and distracts from what should really be happening in the classroom. First, a best practice is to embed assessment activities in both formative and summative evaluations of student course work. Known as course-embedded assessment, this ensures that faculty are both teaching to and evaluating student learning outcomes in context instead of waiting for programmatic portfolio type evaluation at the end of a student’s degree sequence. Portfolio evaluations are definitely valuable but it’s often difficult to remedy performance deficiencies after a student has completed coursework.
Second, a well-designed assignment rubric can articulate certain criteria that apply to course outcomes along with others that specifically target grading criteria. This integrated approach allows faculty to augment their well-known grading process with newly included outcome performance criteria in a way that creates a single assessment workflow for evaluating student work. It’s a win-win situation because having more fully developed rubrics allows faculty to spell out more precisely what mastery looks like to students and serves as a helpful guideline for conversations about why students earned the grade they did on a particular assignment. It also provides faculty with data to pass up the academic outcome hierarchy for evaluation of program effectiveness.
So, while it’s tempting to impose a one size fits all approach to the assessment of student learning, it is worth it to involve faculty in all phases of this process. Everyone tends to more actively engage when the discussion focuses on how to improve learning as opposed to mandatory data generation requirements.
Kinzie, J. (2010). Perspectives from Campus Leaders on the Current State of Student Learning Outcomes Assessment: NILOA Focus Group Summary 2009-2010. National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment. Retrieved November 3, 2010, from http://learningoutcomesassessment.org/documents/FocusGroupFinal.pdf
Brian Epp | Assessment & Analytics Group Supervisor - Academic Training & Consulting| Pearson eCollege