Last 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!
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
- Treat student learning outcomes (SLO) as an inquiry question – assessment is a process of inquiry NOT a committee report
- Assessment and SLOs need TIME to show their real value, similar to discipline-specific research
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Be practical on your start, and then as you implement your assessment plan re-examine if your goals and strategies are in alignment
- You want quality SLOs over quantity – start small and simple and then grow into it
- 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.