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EMERGING DIALOGUES IN ASSESSMENT
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Why Are We Assessing?

March 24, 2018

 

We the undersigned have all dedicated a portion of our careers to helping our institutional colleagues assess student learning. Many of us are or have been teaching faculty, and it’s our passion for teaching and helping students learn that drew us to this work.

 

We work at all kinds of institutions, large and small, public and private, research universities and two-year colleges. Our common bond is a conviction that, as good as American higher education is, today’s students—and society—need not just a good but the best possible education. We see assessment as a vital tool to making that happen.

 

We’ve found that assessment, when done well, can benefit students, faculty, co-curricular staff, and higher education institutions in a number of ways, including contributing to better learning.

 

For students, the clear expectations for learning that are part of good assessment practices help them understand where they should focus their learning time and energies. When learning outcomes, learning activities, assignments, and other assessments are clear and integrated with each other, student learning is more meaningful and long-lasting. Assessment, especially through grading and other feedback processes, motivates students to do their best. And feedback from assessment helps students understand their strengths and how they might try to improve.

 

For faculty and co-curricular staff, assessment helps them understand and thereby improve student learning by encouraging reflection on questions such as the following: What do you most want your students to learn? Why? How are you helping them learn those things? How well are they learning those things? How do you know? How might you help them learn more effectively? Assessment encourages faculty and co-curricular staff to collaborate with students and each other in discussing these questions and deciding how best to help students learn. These conversations help faculty and staff see how courses and other learning experiences link together to form coherent, integrated programs and how the courses and learning experiences they offer contribute to student success in subsequent pursuits.

 

For colleges and universities in an era when American higher education is sometimes criticized as expensive or irrelevant, assessment enables them to provide evidence to students, their families, taxpayers, donors and, yes, accreditors that, if students successfully complete this course or program, they will indeed have learned the important things that faculty and staff commit to in the institutional mission, catalog and course syllabi. Many of us who work in assessment see translation as an important part of our responsibilities; we aim to translate the work of faculty and co-curricular staff into terms that students and other stakeholders—including accreditors—easily understand and appreciate, showing them that everyone’s investments in higher education are worthwhile.

 

Students, faculty, co-curricular staff, and colleges and universities will generally see these benefits of assessment only when assessment is reasonably well done. So what are good assessment practices? The movement to articulate and assess learning outcomes systematically is about 25 years old—a blink of an eye in the history of higher education. We’re still figuring assessment out, and we readily acknowledge that there’s plenty of room for improvement in how we assess. But we have learned that assessment is most effective under the following circumstances.

 

Students, faculty, and co-curricular staff share responsibility for student learning. An impressive body of research demonstrates that “learning-centered” strategies—those in which students are actively engaged in their learning and faculty and students share responsibility for learning—are remarkably effective in helping today’s students learn and succeed. We cannot force students to learn, but we can create motivating and effective educational environments that make learning more likely to occur, and evidence from assessment can help us do so.

 

Institutional leaders make student learning a valued priority.  They actively encourage faculty and co-curricular staff to employ research-informed educational strategies and to use assessment and other systematic evidence to decide how best to do so. They invest institutional resources to help faculty and staff do this. They help create time and space for faculty and staff to collaborate on discussions and decisions on teaching, learning, and assessment. They make sure that faculty and staff receive clear guidance, helpful coordination, resources, and constructive feedback that help faculty and staff decide what and how to assess. They ensure that faculty and staff are recognized in meaningful ways for their work to systematically assess and improve student learning.

 

Faculty and co-curricular staff are respected leaders and partners in the assessment process. Those who determine curricula, teaching methods, and learning strategies collaborate to determine the best ways to assess student learning.

 

Everyone takes a flexible approach to assessment. Teaching is a human endeavor, and every institution, program, and student cohort is unique, so one size does not fit all. Faculty and co-curricular staff help choose and use assessment tools and strategies that are appropriate to their discipline and setting and that will give them useful information on student learning.

 

Assessment respects and builds on what faculty and staff are already doing well. For literally thousands of years, faculty have been assessing student learning through grading and feedback processes. Today, assessment simply builds this work into processes of collaborative, systematic inquiry.

 

Everyone focuses on collecting information that’s genuinely useful in understanding and improving student learning. If anyone finds that something hasn’t been helpful, they try to figure out what went wrong and implement an alternative approach.

 

Assessment is kept as cost-effective as possible. Everyone routinely compares the time spent on assessment with the usefulness of the process and results in understanding and improving student learning. Everyone aims to minimize fruitless or time-intensive assessment activities. Reports on assessment activities and findings have clear purposes and audiences and are kept to the bare-bones minimum needed to meet those needs.

 

Everyone recognizes that the perfect can be the enemy of the good. While assessment is a form of systematic inquiry, it does not necessarily have to be approached as empirical research; it’s designed to collect reasonably good quality information to help everyone make better decisions. Common sense applies here; assessments that may lead to major, expensive changes may need to be more rigorously designed than those informing minor adjustments to a learning activity. Of course, if you want to conduct research on how best to help students learn, great! The higher education community needs more scholarship on teaching, learning, and assessment.

 

Disappointing outcomes are viewed as opportunities for improvement and are addressed fairly, supportively, and compassionately. Resources are available to help faculty and co-curricular staff identify and implement strategies to try to improve student learning, and those who make assessment-informed changes are recognized for their work.

 

There is an institution-wide commitment to innovation and improvement. If everyone is satisfied with the status quo, there’s no point in assessing.

 

Is all this worthwhile? Here are a few examples of assessment work making a big impact:


  1. After using rubrics to assess student learning in its writing-intensive, capstone, and service-learning courses, Daemen College hired a writing coordinator and writing-in-the-disciplines specialist, added an information literacy component to its first-year writing course, increased the proportion of first-year writing courses taught by full-time faculty from 35 to 90 percent, and offered workshops to faculty teaching writing-intensive courses. (For more information, see http://www.aacu.org/sites/default/files/files/VALUE/daemen.pdf.)
  2. After assessment results suggested the need to improve students’ digital literacy, Carlow University implemented an extensive faculty professional development program. (For more information, see http://nsse.indiana.edu/NSSE_2016_Results/index.cfm.)
  3. After assessing first-year students’ writing and finding disappointing outcomes for critical thinking and information competence, Norco College appointed course mentors and created a handbook and model assignments for faculty teaching first-year writing courses. (For more information, see “Can Assessment Loops Be Closed?” in the July-August 2014 issue of Assessment Update.)

 

To sum all this up: assessment is most effective and useful when faculty and co-curricular staff are valued, respected, supported, and engaged as part of a community that focuses purposefully and collaboratively on helping every student receive the best possible education. We are all committed to helping everyone at our institutions make that happen. Call on us — we are here to help.

 

 

Julie Jackson Albee, Ph.D.

Director of Assessment

Hannibal-LaGrange University

 

Patricia Alvey, Ph.D.

Associate Provost, Institutional Planning & Effectiveness

Southern Methodist University

 

Laura Ariovich, Ph.D.

Director of Institutional Assessment

Prince George’s Community College

 

Jo-Ellen Asbury, Ph.D.

Associate Provost for Institutional Planning and Assessment 

Brooklyn College/CUNY

 

Christine Bachen, Ph.D.

Director of Assessment and Associate Professor of Communication

Santa Clara University

 

Debra Ballard

Chair, Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Associate Provost for Assessment and Accreditation

Otis College of Art and Design

 

Michael Ben-Avie, Ph.D.

Interim Associate Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness

Southern Connecticut State University

 

Alicia Betsinger, Ph.D.

Associate Provost, Institutional Research

Dartmouth College

 

Laura Palucki Blake, Ph. D.

Director of Institutional Research and Effectiveness

Harvey Mudd College

 

Joel D. Bloom, Ph.D.

Senior Director of Accreditation and Assessment

Long Island University

 

Jessica Blumerick 

Assessment Manager 

University of Michigan - Dearborn

 

Amanda M. Brey, Ed.D

Principal Assessment Analyst

UC Santa Barbara

 

Matthew C. Bronson, Ph.D.

Director of Assessment

Dominican University of California

 

Robert Todd Bruce, Ph.D.

Assistant Provost for Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment

John Carroll University

 

Ruth E. Cain, Ed.D.

Director of Assessment

University of Missouri--Kansas City

 

Jill Carlson, M.A.

Director for Assessment and Accreditation

Santa Fe Community College

 

Kim Chandler, Ph.D.

Executive Director of Planning, Research, & Institutional Effectiveness

Eastfield College

 

Rebekah Chow

Manager of Institutional Effectiveness

Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology

 

Fiona H. Chrystall, Ph.D.

Director of Curriculum Assurance and Assessment

Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College

 

Cindy Cogswell, Ph.D.          

Associate Director, Accreditation and Assessment   

Dartmouth College

 

Janelle Coleman, Ph.D.

Faculty Consultant for Assessment

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

 

Christopher C. Combie, Ph.D.

Assistant Director, Institutional Effectiveness

University of South Florida

 

Ann E. Damiano, D.Litt.

Dean for Academic Assessment

Utica College

 

Bina Daniel

Director of Assessment

Delaware State University

 

Summer DeProw, Ph.D.
Interim Assistant Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs & Director of Assessment
Arkansas State University

 

Susan Donat, Ph.D.

Director of Curriculum

Messiah College

 

Becky Dueben, Ph.D.

VCEA Academic Center Director & Special Projects Liaison

Washington State University Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture

 

Brenda Edmonds

Professor, Mathematics; former Co-Director of Outcomes Assessment

Johnson County Community College

 

Gerald S. Edmonds, Ph.D.

Assistant Provost

Syracuse University

 

Steve Ehrmann

VIce Provost for Teaching & Learning (retired)

George Washington University

 

Omar Elshennawy
IR Research Analyst
University of Central Florida

 

Vivienne Felix, Ph.D.

Associate Director, Experiential Learning

New York University

 

Elaine Finan, M.A.

Assistant Director, Office for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning

University of Rhode Island

 

Debbie Finocchio

Program Coordinator, Assessment of Core Curriculum

University of San Diego

 

Jodi Fisler, Ph.D.

Associate for Assessment Policy & Analysis

State Council of Higher Education for Virginia

 

Patty Flowers

Assessment Coordinator

University of Tennessee at Martin

 

André Foisy

Executive Director of Institutional Outcomes Assessment

Excelsior College

 

Matthew B. Fuller, Ph. D.

Associate Professor, Higher Education Leadership

Sam Houston State University

 

Denise C. Gardner, Ph.D.

Assistant Provost and Director, Office of Institutional Research and Analysis

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

 

Sarah Gordon, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Oklahoma State University

 

Kathleen Gorski, Ed.D.

Assistant Dean of Outcomes Assessment and Program Review

Waubonsee Community College

 

Faon Grandinetti

Associate Director, Outcomes Assessment and Institutional Effectiveness

Harper College

 

Kevin R. Guidry, Ph.D.

Associate Director of Educational Assessment, Center for Teaching & Assessment of Learning

University of Delaware

 

Paula Haines, M.Phil.

Director of Curriculum, Assessment & Accreditation

University of Massachusetts Lowell

 

Adam K. Halemano, Jr., M.A., M.Ed.

Institutional Assessment Specialist 
Leeward Community College

 

Christy Hammond, M.S.N., R.N.

Director of Institutional Effectiveness and Assistant Professor of Nursing

Research College of Nursing

 

Jana M. Hanson, Ph.D.

Director of Institutional Assessment

South Dakota State University

 

Laura Hart, Ed.D.

Director of Assessment and Accreditation for the Cato College of Education

UNC Charlotte

 

Nora Hatton

Director of Assessment

Pittsburg State University

 

Joan Hawthorne, Ph.D.

Director of Assessment and Regional Accreditation 

University of North Dakota

 

Michael A. Heel, M.P.P., M.A.

Associate Director of Curriculum and Assessment

Monroe Community College

 

Bill Heinrich

Director of Assessment

Michigan State University Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology

 

Gavin Henning, Ph.D.

President

Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education

 

Caroline Hilk, Ph.D.

Assistant Provost

Hamline University

 

Cynthia Howell, Ed.D.

Distinguished Faculty, Leadership for Higher Education

Capella University

 

Heather D. Hussey, Ph.D.

Director of Institutional Assessment

Northcentral University

 

Nicola M. Imbracsio, Ph.D.

Assessment Coordinator & Faculty

Michigan State University Center for Integrative Studies in the Arts & Humanities

 

Curtis G. Jefferson, M.S.

Director of Operations for Experiential Education & Assessment

University of Washington School of Pharmacy

 

Bernadette M.E. Jungblut, Ph.D.

Associate Provost for Accreditation, Academic Planning, and Assessment

Central Washington University

 

Daniel J. Kaczmarek

Director of Assessment and Evaluation, Student Life

University at Buffalo

 

Jonathan Keiser

Associate Vice Chancellor for Educational Quality

City Colleges of Chicago

 

Ebenezer F. Kolajo, Ph.D.

Assistant Provost

Radford University

 

Stephanie Kolitsch, Ph.D.

Professor of Mathematics and Coordinator, SACSCOC Accreditation

University of Tennessee at Martin

 

Denise Kruizenga-Muro

Associate Professor of English

Riverside City College

 

Thomas D. Leary IV, Ed.D.

Learning Strategist and Assessment Professional

Franklin, Wisconsin

 

Deborah Lee

Director of Institutional Research and Assessment

Concordia University Irvine

 

Joseph D. Levy

Executive Director of Assessment and Accreditation

National Louis University

 

Crissy Lewis, M.L.I.S.

Director of Institutional Effectiveness

Sherman College of Chiropractic

 

Belinda L. Locke, Ph.D.

Coordinator for Assessment & Strategic Planning in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

 

Cari Lott, Ed.D.

Associate Dean of Institutional Research and Assessment

McPherson College

 

Cynthia Louden

Director of Assessment

Columbia College of Missouri

 

Marlene P. Lowe, Ph.D.

Director of Student Affairs Assessment & Evaluation

UC San Diego

 

Jason Lyons, Ph.D.

Director of Assessment

Christopher Newport University

 

Jacqueline MacNeil

Executive Director for Institutional Effectiveness

Eckerd College

 

Pamela A. MacPherson

Director of Institutional Research and Assessment

Delaware College of Art and Design

 

Cecelia G. Martin

Director of Assessment

University of South Alabama

 

Hugh McNiece

Professor of Mathematics                                 

Lincoln Land Community College

 

Tracey Meilander, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Biology, & Director of Assessment

Notre Dame College

 

Julia Metzker, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Brown Center for Faculty Innovation and Excellence

Stetson University

 

Kara Moloney, Ph.D.

Academic Assessment Lead

University of California, Davis

 

Tatiana Nazarenko

Dean of Curriculum and Education Effectiveness

Westmont College

 

Abdou Ndoye, Ph.D.

Assistant Vice Provost for Assessment

Northern Kentucky University

 

Christina Neider, Ed.D.

Dean, Undergraduate Programs

University of Phoenix School of Health Services Administration

 

Carrie Nepstad, M.S.

Associate Professor and Assessment Committee Chair

Harold Washington College, City Colleges of Chicago

 

Deborah L. Panter, J.D.

Director of Educational Effectiveness & Assessment

University of San Francisco

 

Richard E. Parent, Ph.D.

Director of Assessment for Online Programs

University of New England

 

Fiorella Penaloza, D.M.

Director of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment, Assistant Faculty 

Cleveland University- Kansas City

 

Susan Perry

Assistant Provost

Kent State University

 

Ellen Peters

Director of Institutional Research and Retention

University of Puget Sound

 

Nhung Pham

University Assessment Coordinator

University of Central Missouri

 

Dale Pietrzak, Ed.D.

Director, Institutional Effectiveness and Accreditation 

University of Idaho

 

Gina B. Polychronopoulos, Ph.D.

Assistant Director of Assessment

Christopher Newport University

 

Linda A. Pursley, Ph.D.

Director of Assessment

Lesley University

 

Kathleen Langan Pusecker

Director, Center for Teaching & Assessment of Learning

University of Delaware

 

Sabrina Qureshi

Assessment Specialist/Instructor

The University of Virginia’s College at Wise

 

Tony Ribera, Ph.D.

Director of Assessment

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

 

Rochelle M. Roberts, Ph.D.

Director of Assessment

University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy

 

Ester Rogers

Director of Institutional Assessment and Accreditation

Occidental College​

 

Mariajosé Romero, Ph.D.

Director of Assessment and Planning

Pace University

 

Sharron Ronco

Assessment Director

Marquette University

 

Tara Rose, Ph.D.

Senior Associate for Academic Quality

Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

 

Nancy Ruggeri, Ph.D.

Director, Graduate and Postdoctoral Learning

Northwestern University

 

Chad W. Russell, Ph.D.

Assessment Coordinator for the Department of Writing and Rhetoric

The University of Mississippi

 

Mark Salisbury, Ph.D.

Assistant Dean and Director of Institutional Research and Assessment

Augustana College

 

Connie Schaffer, Ed.D.

Faculty Fellow in Assessment

University of Nebraska at Omaha

 

Mandy Seiferlein

Director of Assessment

Ferris State University College of Pharmacy

 

Carina E. Self, Ph.D.

Associate Dean of Academic Effectiveness

Granite State College

 

Sara Seyller, M.P.A.

Office of Instruction

Clark College

 

Ruth Slotnick, Ph.D.

Director of Assessment

Bridgewater State University

 

Jane Marie Souza, Ph.D.

Assistant Provost for Academic Administration/Chief Assessment Officer 

University of Rochester

 

Claudia J. Stanny, Ph.D.

Director, Center for University Teaching, Learning, and Assessment

University of West Florida

 

Jeffrey Stanton, Ph.D.

Professor and Associate Provost

Syracuse University

 

Katarína Stehlíková (Svítková), Ph.D.
Vice President and Accreditation Liaison Officer

Anglo American University

 

Pam Steinke, Ph.D.

Dean of Teaching & Learning Outcomes

University of St. Francis

 

Cindy Stephens

Faculty Student Learning Outcomes Co-Coordinator

College of the Canyons

 

Mark Stewart

Professor of Psychology

Willamette University

 

Monica Stitt-Bergh, Ph.D.

Associate Specialist

University of Hawaii at Manoa

 

Sarah L. Strout, Ph.D.

Assistant Vice President for Assessment and Planning

Worcester State University

 

Linda Suskie, M.A.

Assessment & Accreditation Consultant

Lancaster, PA

 

Jennifer Sweet, Ph.D.

Associate Director of Assessment

DePaul University

 

Yuerong Sweetland, Ph.D.

Director of Teaching and Learning Assessment

Franklin University

 

Roberta C. Teahen, Ph.D. 

Associate Provost for Accreditation, Assessment, Compliance, and Evaluation

Ferris State University

 

D. Scott Tharp, Ph.D., M.S.W.

Student Affairs Assessment Coordinator

DePaul University

 

Patricia Thatcher, Ph.D.

Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs

Misericordia University

 

Amanda Thomas

University of West Georgia

 

Yen M. To, Ph.D.

Director of Assessment & Institutional Research

Missouri Western State University

 

Jane Turk

High-Impact Learning Practices Coordinator

Hamline University

 

Amanda Udis-Kessler, Ph.D.

Director of Assessment and Program Review

Colorado College

 

Sharon Latkovich Valente, Ph.D.

Director of Assessment, Evaluation, & Accreditation

University of Hawai'i West O'ahu

 

Roelof van Deemter

Assessment Specialist

University of Groningen, The Netherlands

 

Donna Vinton, Ph.D.

Professional Staff Emerita

University of Northern Iowa

 

Susan C. Warner Taylor, Ph.D.

Director of Institutional Research & Assessment

Baldwin Wallace University

 

Catherine M. Wehlburg, Ph.D.

Associate Provost

Texas Christian University

 

Suzanne Weinstein, Ph.D.

Assistant Vice Provost for Learning Outcomes Assessment

The Pennsylvania State University

 

Christopher C. Willis, M.Ed., M.A.

Coordinator, Learning Analytics & Assessment

North Carolina State University – DELTA

 

Nevada Winrow, Ph.D.

Executive Vice President

Morris Brown College

 

Karen Wong

Coordinator of Institutional Effectiveness and Professor of English

Skyline College

 

Yi-Chin Sarah Wu

Associate Director of Assessment

Kent State University

 

Michele Yurecko, Ph.D.

Director of Institutional Research and Academic Assessment

College of Saint Elizabeth

 

Sarah B. Zahl, Ph.D.
Assistant Dean for Accreditation Logistics and Advancement

Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine 

 

 

 

 

 

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