Paul L. Caron

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Does Student Assessment Work? Yes.

AssessmentFollowing up on Wednesday's post, Why Don't We Ever Assess The Value Of The Student Assessment Mania?:  Chronicle of Higher Education op-ed:  Does Assessment Make Colleges Better? Let Me Count the Ways, by Joan Hawthorne (University of North Dakota):

Erik Gilbert’s recent commentary in The Chronicle, "Does Assessment Make Colleges Better? Who Knows?" raises an important question about the value of assessment. As one who has worked in education for 15 years and dutifully assessed learning in his classes, Gilbert now wonders if that measurement has been a worthwhile use of time. He’s not certain that the tweaks he’s made (and they’ve been mostly tweaks) have been meaningful enough to merit the time all that assessing has required. ...

[I]is assessment "effective"? Yes. I’ve heard of many cases in which professors really do find something about their program or their course that they can fix once it’s been identified. Those fixes can be substantial; faculty members at my institution changed general education, and a major piece of the motivation for that work was evidence from assessments. (Is the new program better? That’s a question we’re still answering. We do know it’s better in some ways — and we know that because of assessment.)

Regardless of the scale of a fix, assessment is effective for promoting greater thoughtfulness and purpose in teaching — and for focusing our attention on learning. That matters. On that basis alone, assessment works.

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I wish these educational gurus could teach my undergrad income tax class when I have to cover ObamaCare to a group of young adults who don't even know what health insurance is.

Posted by: Dale Spradling | Aug 23, 2015 7:52:34 AM

How crazy. Assessment doesn't focus attention on teaching; it focuses attention on talking about teaching. A serious approach would have professors attend each other's courses and look at each other's course materials and tests, not make up assessment criteria for their own courses.

Posted by: Eric Rasmusen | Aug 25, 2015 8:03:09 PM

You're right, Eric. But your approach would require deans to actually work instead of, well, instead of, whatever it is they do.

Posted by: Dale Spradling | Aug 26, 2015 7:48:40 AM