Assessment Pro Tips: NEEAN Conference

2015-03-14_OhNoLogo22-abby3Last week I was at the Northeast Educational Assessment Network (NEEAN) fall forum at College of the Holy Cross. Wow – what an excellent conference! The theme of the conference focused on the past, present, and future of assessment in higher education.

I co-presented with two incredible professional colleagues (see photo below): Carol Trosset (Associate Director of Institutional Research & Assessment, Carleton College) and Holly McCormack (Dean of Field Work Term, Bennington College) on assessing the liberal arts and its preparation for life after college via internships. Carol brought together the work she and Holly had been doing at Bennington with projects we’re in the midst of at Carleton to make this presentation. We had a such a great audience who brought insightful questions and ideas. Loved it!

NEEAN collage

The keynote speaker, Steve Weisler, gave an excellent presentation and concurrent session about assessment’s present and future. I took furious notes; here’s what stuck out to me:

  • Assessment means riding the bike while building it
  1. Treat student learning outcomes (SLO) as an inquiry question – assessment is a process of inquiry NOT a committee report
  2. Assessment and SLOs need TIME to show their real value, similar to discipline-specific research
  3. Reconcile the fact that assessment needs lots of time with the fact that we need to be presenting/showing progress now
  • Focus on making sure we have the appropriate learning goals because they will shape the conversation
  1. SLOs need to have variables that are sensitive to what truly differentiates a student at the beginning and end of college (e.g., Is “critical thinking” the appropriate measure? Or is it focusing progress on the wrong metric?)
  • Content cannot be the main measure of learning
  1. Students will forget so much of the information-specific content they acquire, thus we need to focus more on capturing the larger learning happening in its midst
  • Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good: Assessment needs to start somewhere
  1. Be practical on your start, and then as you implement your assessment plan re-examine if your goals and strategies are in alignment
  2. You want quality SLOs over quantity – start small and simple and then grow into it
  3. You won’t be able to start if you’re constantly problematizing your process

A big THANK YOU to my co-presenters Carol and Holly for a meaningful collaboration and presentation, and to NEEAN and Steve Weisler for such a hearty, learning-dense conference.

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Will You Be a Guest Blogger?

2015-03-14_OhNoLogo22-abby32015-03-14_OhNoLogo22-mark3When we started Oh No our hope was to have one LARGE conversation about assessment. Thusfar, it’s mainly been us talking to ourselves – which is fun but not achieving our goal.

We want to expand the conversation about assessment in higher education, and the best way to do that is to invite creative, innovative professionals to help take the conversation further. We have lots of smart professionals in our lives already who are doing amazing things in various areas of higher education (see some of them below!).seal

mac n joes

These friends of ours (and others who we don’t even know yet [i.e., hopefully YOU!]) will be adding their perspective in the coming weeks.

We’d love for you to add your voice and fill in the gaps that we are missing. If you’re interested in adding to the assessment conversation we’ve started, let us know by filling out the form below.

Sending you much assessment power, 

Abby and Mark
mark and abby