Thank you Michael for the introduction, I am excited to be a part of In Socrates Wake. For my first post, I want to discuss an issue I have been thinking quite a bit about since I became in charge of learning assessment for my department this year.
One of the buzzwords in educational circles in the past few years has been accountability. No Child Left Behind cemented standards of accountability into educational policy for K-12, but the drive for accountability is no longer limited to elementary and secondary education (and might even be moving into graduate education). However, in order to be held accountable, student learning has to be assessed and assessing student learning at the post-secondary level is tricky. CCNY, where I teach, belongs to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and as a part of our membership we engage in regular assessment, which is meant to give us the tools to measure our teaching efficiency at the institutional and departmental level.
The idea of the assessment loop is quite simple: we come up with some clearly defined skills and knowledge that we want our students to learn (departmental learning objectives), we measure where students are with respect to those objectives, we then measure how far students have improved in meeting those objectives after they have gone through the program, and we use those results to improve our teaching and, thereby, improve student learning. In principle, the idea behind assessment is to systematize and measure what anyone concerned with successful teaching does intuitively when reflecting on their experiences in the classroom. You try X out in the classroom, see how it helps your students learn from looking at their papers, participation, tests, or other forms of assessment, and reevaluate whether you should continue to do X or try something different. In practice, there are many obstacles to its useful implementation at the departmental and institutional level and many reasons to be skeptical. I hope to explore both sides of this issue on future posts, but my question for this post is: for those of you have gone through an assessment process, did you find it helpful or not? And what kind of data or feedback did you find helpful (or did not find helpful)?