Authentic Institutional Assessment


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arguing for the need to be true to the notion of "authentic" assessment in pursuing institutional assessment efforts in higher education, despite (or perhaps because of) the strong and growing pressure around a narrow vision of accountability for higher education

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  • Authentic Institutional Assessment

    1. 1. Complex Questions & ‘Kitchen Stories’: Pursuing Authentic Institutional Assessment in an Age of Accountability William S. Moore, Ph.D. Coordinator, Assessment, Teaching & Learning WA State Board for Community & Technical Colleges 360-704-4346 National Student Affairs Assessment & Retention Conference June 2005 Atlanta, GA
    2. 2. Adapted from “Dilbert” & Scott Adams As you can clearly see on slide 397… Oh, no—not another case of PowerPoint poisoning!!!
    3. 3. Key Messages <ul><li>We’re in the Age of Accountability, not Aquarius </li></ul><ul><li>Assessment needs to be about learning, not accountability (or retention per se) </li></ul><ul><li>Re-framing our core assumptions about assessment leads us to more complex, and more useful, questions about what matters </li></ul><ul><li>Authentic approaches to institutional assessment will help us address these complex questions more effectively </li></ul>
    4. 4. Age of Accountability
    5. 5. Forces Contributing to an Age of Accountability <ul><li>View of postsecondary education as strategic investment and societal benefit </li></ul><ul><li>Limited resources and competing governmental demands </li></ul><ul><li>Increasing public intrusion regarding “proof” of quality “performance” in higher education </li></ul><ul><li>Growing cynicism toward all major institutions (issues of trust) </li></ul>
    6. 6. Accounting or Accountability? Assessment as learning can be reconciled with assessment for accountability only if we fundamentally rethink accountability…[as] a deeply human enterprise that depends on open sharing of information and continuing conversations… Lorna Earl & Paul LeMahieu, 1997
    7. 7. <ul><li>Need rigorous, useful peer review process that links or balances accountability & assessment perspectives </li></ul><ul><li>Challenge is involving thoughtful peers, producing work meaningful for campus AND translatable to external audiences </li></ul>Striking a Balance
    8. 8. Role of Underlying Beliefs in Accountability The question of how we exhibit educational accountability hinges on beliefs about what constitutes knowledge and how it can be demonstrated. Paul Theobald & Ed Mills, 1995
    9. 9. Assessment grows out of public discussions of the dimensions of excellence , exchanging informed clinical judgments and uncovering overlaps of or tensions between opinions. Its purpose is not accountability, but learning. Dennie Palmer Wolf & Nancy Pistone, 1991
    10. 10. It’s Learning That Matters
    11. 11. College Learning??? <ul><li>Basically, you learn two kinds of things in college: </li></ul><ul><li>Things you will need to know in later life (2 hours)… </li></ul><ul><li>Things you will NOT need to know in later life (1198 hours). These are the things you learn in classes whose names end in ‘-ology’, ‘-osophy’, ‘-istry’, ‘-ics’, and so on. The idea is, you memorize these things, then write them down in little exam books, then forget them. If you fail to forget them you become a professor and have to stay in college the rest of your life. </li></ul>Dave Barry, 1981
    12. 12. “ The major aim of the freshman year should be to win the student to the intellectual enterprise.” Nevitt Sanford, The Modern American College , 1962
    13. 13. Learning as Transforming Understanding … Being able to repeat facts and plug numbers into formulae to get the right answers is handy, even essential. But it is not what education is fundamentally about… Learning should be about changing the ways in which learners understand, or experience, or conceptualize the world around them … Paul Ramsden
    14. 14. Hope & Loss: Real Learning Takes Courage … It may be a great joy to discover a new and more complex way of thinking and seeing, but what do we do about the old simple world? What do we do about the hopes that we had invested and experienced in those simpler terms? When we leave those terms behind, are we to leave hope, too? Bill Perry, 1978 “ Sharing in the cost of growth”
    15. 15. Exploring Assumptions and Complex Questions
    16. 16. “ Assessment is…”
    17. 17. Re-Visioning Assessment from a Developmental Perspective <ul><li>Assessment as Learning </li></ul><ul><li>Assessment as Meaning-making </li></ul><ul><li>Assessment as Dialogue </li></ul>
    18. 18. Assessment as Learning Observing & judging performance based on explicit criteria Providing feedback based on those judgments Reflecting regularly on the strengths & weaknesses of the institution Asking fundamental questions about learning and the conditions for learning
    19. 19. Assessment as Meaning-Making Ultimately, however, the real value of science may lie in uncertainty… Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty… We scientists take it for granted that it is perfectly consistent to be unsure, that it is possible to live and not to know. But I don’t know whether everyone realizes that this is true… Richard Feynman, 1970 from “The Value of Science”
    20. 20. Assessment as Dialogue What can we truly know about our students—and about each other—without some dialogue and human connection?
    21. 21. Core Principles of Assessment <ul><li>Assess the things that really matter, not just the things easily assessed </li></ul><ul><li>Emphasize the quality and quantity of conversations about assessment evidence </li></ul><ul><li>Use a variety of approaches and multiple indicators </li></ul>
    22. 22. A Sampling of Assessment Approaches <ul><li>Research papers, essay tests </li></ul><ul><li>Self-evaluations </li></ul><ul><li>Interviews </li></ul><ul><li>Performance tasks (e.g., cases, problems, etc.) </li></ul><ul><li>Multiple-choice tests </li></ul><ul><li>End of seminar surveys </li></ul><ul><li>Course evaluations </li></ul><ul><li>Student tracking studies </li></ul><ul><li>Projects, field work </li></ul><ul><li>Standardized tests, surveys </li></ul><ul><li>Peer evaluations </li></ul><ul><li>Portfolio collections of work </li></ul><ul><li>Video analyses </li></ul><ul><li>Focus groups (& SGIDs) </li></ul><ul><li>Student characteristic profiles </li></ul>
    23. 23. Scary Issues Around Assessment <ul><li>Assuming “accountability” leads to real improvement </li></ul><ul><li>Getting lost in bureaucratic minutiae </li></ul><ul><li>Worshipping numbers </li></ul><ul><li>Obsessing over “objectivity” & “being scientific” </li></ul>
    24. 24. … Imagine a kind of institutional research that asks: <ul><li>What are our students really learning? </li></ul><ul><li>What do they understand deeply? </li></ul><ul><li>What kinds of human beings are they becoming—intellectually, morally, in terms of civic responsibility? </li></ul><ul><li>How does our teaching affect that learning, and how might it do so more effectively? </li></ul>Pat Hutchings & Lee Shulman, “ The scholarship of teaching,” Change, Sept./Oct., 1999
    25. 25. Every complex question has a simple answer… … and it’s wrong. H.L. Mencken
    26. 26. Authentic Institutional Assessment
    27. 27. Authentic Institutional Assessment Emphasizes: <ul><li>Mission , not just methods </li></ul><ul><li>Relationships , not just reports </li></ul><ul><li>Long-term , ongoing process of self-reflection , not just a quick fix </li></ul><ul><li>Faith , not just proof </li></ul>
    28. 28. Key Features of Authentic Institutional Assessment <ul><li>Clarifying collective sense of purpose </li></ul>
    29. 29. Collective Sense of Purpose Assessment...requires us to work together, and to do unfamiliar things like setting common goals and standards, devising methods of assessment, interpreting the results, and using them to improve and coordinate our teaching. [It thus] possesses all the appeal and efficiency of committee work, in particular the kind visited upon us by administrators. Robert Holyer, Change , Sept./Oct., 1998
    30. 30. Key Features of Authentic Institutional Assessment <ul><li>Clarifying collective sense of purpose </li></ul><ul><li>Developing shared notions of quality </li></ul>
    31. 31. Shared Notions of Quality … It is through developing a shared language about student work and shared set of values and criteria that assessment can affect the larger educational system with the power reformers desire and in the direction they advocate... Karen Sheingold & John Frederiksen, “ Linking Assessment with Reform,” ETS, 1994
    32. 32. Key Features of Authentic Institutional Assessment <ul><li>Clarifying collective sense of purpose </li></ul><ul><li>Developing shared notions of quality </li></ul><ul><li>Building trust & capacity </li></ul>
    33. 33. Public Trust Much psychometric evaluation is ostensibly in the service of public trust, but there are more effective ways of establishing public trust than through the use of psychometrics . Peter Johnston, 1989
    34. 34. An Overview of Authentic Institutional Assessment Student Learning <ul><li>Content knowledge </li></ul><ul><li>in meaningful context </li></ul><ul><li>Complex general education abilities </li></ul><ul><li>Student attitudes/ </li></ul><ul><li>perspectives on learning </li></ul>Institutional Effectiveness <ul><li>Assessing mission achievement </li></ul><ul><li>Understanding organizational </li></ul><ul><li>climate/culture </li></ul><ul><li>Analyzing support </li></ul><ul><li>systems & processes </li></ul>Builds community through collaborative judgment processes Substantive & focused on the scholarship of teaching and learning Professional Development
    35. 35. In Conclusion… I know I have not succeeded in answering all of your questions. Indeed, it feels as though I have not completely answered ANY of your questions. The answers I have given often serve simply to raise a new set of questions. In some ways it seems clear that you are as confused as ever. However, you’ll be happy to know that I believe firmly that you are now confused on a much higher level and about much more important things than before! Adapted from John McMahon, Seattle Central Community College
    36. 36. Key Issues/ Lingering Questions?