Monday, August 15, 2011

Assessment in Higher Education

Today was my first official day on the job, and it was primarily spent in a whole-faculty workshop pertaining to assessment. Following a lengthy presentation about assessment, and a lunch to give us time to reflect, we gathered as departments to chart some program-level learning objectives. This was the first step in what will be at least a year long look at our various programs, and how the various courses fit into the programs, etc. All of this is well and good, and certainly necessary. All of this is aimed at verifying that students have learned something, and determining what they have learned, when they leave our institution.

That said, I could not help but thinking as I listened to the presentation that, at the end of the day, what assessment does is shift the focus away from grading students to grading institutions and programs. One could argue that this is necessary given rampant grade inflation: i.e., since grading students doesn't mean anything anymore, we need to pay attention to assessing / grading the programs they are in.

Assessment is helpful insofar as it makes departments, schools, and institutions intentional about what they are teaching. But when it is wrapped in a veneer of somehow quantifying what and how well students learn...well, I'm not entirely sure what to make of that.

Now, this is horribly simplistic, not in any way the fault of my institution, and **insert other standard academic loophole here**, but at the moment I'm feeling a bit disappointed: I thought I was more or less done being graded for a while...

==================================

7 comments:

Nathaniel Maddox said...

I have a feeling come end of year evals, you will get something like this: "Imma tell you what my mentor told me. You got potential . . . " and the rest is history. =)

Jokes aside, best of luck.

Bobby Grow said...

You sound like an Augustinian monk I know of ;-).

W. Travis McMaken said...

@Bobby, which one? There are so many to choose from.

@Nathan, this doesn't have to do with student evaluations, but nice job working that in. ;-P

Timothy R. Butler said...

Very interesting. I'm sure it will go well for you. Welcome to Lindenwood!

Watcher said...

I remember once getting a 'fail' in a subject at uni. I went to the lecturer and said: "this is really bad; you must feel dreadful." He asked why. I replied. "Well, your job is to teach me, and you clearly failed. How are you going to improve your performance?" Of course, he had no access to contemporary approaches to adult education, and imagined that the 'talk and chalk' approach to lectures worked. It does not. Check out what John Sweller says on learning strategies. and what modern adult educationalists say and do; Stephen Brookfield, for instance. This could revolutionise the way we help church helpers and teachers grow.

W. Travis McMaken said...

Interesting thoughts, Watcher. I certainly don't want to give the impression that I'm uninterested in helping students learn - they pay me the big bucks (*tongue firmly planted in cheek) precisely to be interested in that. What bothers me is the assumption, which seemed to underlie the workshop in which I was involved, that student grades are not a measure of student learning.

W. Travis McMaken said...

I should add that the church would definitely be served well by more sustained attention to proper adult learner pedogogies.