|Posted on November 10, 2014 at 8:40 AM|
‘Fess up time: my initial reaction to Jeffrey Alan Johnson’s recent Inside Higher Ed piece On Assessing Student Learning: Faculty Are Not the Enemy was “guilty as charged.” I’ve done plenty of presentations, workshops, and discussions on building a culture of assessment, and the conversation invariably turns to “getting faculty on board.” In fact, over the years, this has been far and away the biggest complaint/question I’ve heard about assessment, so it’s been easy for me to slide into this. Fortunately, my good friend Ginny Anderson, co-author of Effective Grading and a marvelous biology professor, sets me straight from time to time.
I try to point out a few things during these discussions. First, very often the issue is not getting faculty on board but getting institutional leadership on board, providing support for assessment and for using evidence for betterment. Second, it’s important to figure out why there’s foot-dragging on assessment—the reasons vary widely, and different reasons point to different solutions. My new book Five Dimensions of Quality: A Common Sense Guide to Accreditation and Accountability has a whole chapter titled, “Why is This So Hard?”
But Johnson’s piece homes in on one particular issue: the need for a culture of respect. One of the five dimensions of quality in my new book is a culture of community, including cultures of respect, communication, and collaboration, among others. An institution with a culture of respect treats everyone fairly and equitably. It trusts members of the institutional community, stepping in only when necessary. It taps the expertise of faculty (and staff) and the energy of students. It lets people learn from their mistakes. And it recognizes that communication is a two-way street, listening and not just telling.
In a recent blog I talked about assessment bullies. I’ve seen assessment coordinators who might not be bullies but who certainly have an anal-retentive streak! The best people to provide assessment coordination and guidance, as I explain in Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide, are those who are sensitive, open-minded, flexible, and ready to encourage and facilitate multiple approaches.