Linda Suskie

  A Common Sense Approach to Assessment in Higher Education

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How many samples of student work do you need to assess?

Posted on November 22, 2019 at 7:00 AM Comments comments (0)

It’s a question I get a lot! And—fair warning!—you probably won’t like my answers.

 

First, the learning goals we assess are promises we make to our students, their families, employers, and society: Students who successfully complete a course, program, gen ed curriculum, or other learning experience can do the things we promise in our learning goals. Those learning goals also are (or should be) the most important things we want students t...

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General education as an economic driver?

Posted on October 19, 2019 at 8:25 AM Comments comments (0)

At a recent workshop on general education in a region with low educational and income levels. I pointed out that general education can be a driver of economic development.


Generally speaking, people with more education earn more money. They spend more, pay more taxes, and other ways contribute to regional economic development.

 

We also know that college students are most likely to drop out of college during their first year or two—when they’re ...

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What's the difference between course and program learning goals?

Posted on September 5, 2019 at 8:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Let me begin with a brief sidebar on assessment vocabulary. Assessment in higher education is relatively new—only a few decades old—and we don’t yet have a standard vocabulary. Specifically, we don’t have agreement on the terms “learning objectives,” “learning competencies,” “learning goals,” and “learning outcomes.” Some people draw distinctions among these terms; I don’t. Many people use the term “learning o...

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Who is your audience?

Posted on August 7, 2019 at 6:30 AM Comments comments (0)

In my July 9, 2019, blog post I encouraged using summertime to reflect on your assessment practices, starting with the question, “Why are we assessing?”


Here are the next questions on which I suggest you reflect:

  • Who are our audiences for the products we’re generating through our assessment processes?
  • What decisions are they making?
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Why are you assessing?

Posted on July 9, 2019 at 3:50 PM Comments comments (2)

Summer is a great time to reflect on and possibly rethink your assessment practices. I’m a big believer in form following function, so I think the first question to reflect on should be, “Why are we doing this?” You can then reflect on how well your assessment practices achieve those purposes.


In Chapter 6 of my book Assessi...

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Culturally Responsive Assessment

Posted on June 8, 2019 at 6:25 AM Comments comments (0)

I have the honor of serving as one of the faculty of this year's Mission Fulfillment Fellowship of the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). One of the readings that’s resonated most with the Fellows is Equity and Assessment: Moving Towards Culturally Responsive Assessment by Erick Montenegro and Natasha Jankowski. 


A number of the themes of thi...

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Understanding direct and indirect evidence of student learning

Posted on May 10, 2019 at 8:50 AM Comments comments (6)

A recent question posted to the ASSESS listserv led to a lively discussion of direct vs. indirect evidence of student learning, including what they are and the merits of each.


I really hate jargon, and “direct” and “indirect” is right at the top of my list of jargon I hate. A few years ago I did a little poking around to try to figure out who came up with these terms. The earliest reference I could find was in a government regulation. That makes sense...

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What is good assessment, revisited

Posted on April 17, 2019 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (3)

Another week, another critique of assessment, this one at the Academic Resource Conference of the WASC Senior College and University Commission.


The fundamental issue is that, more than a quarter century into the higher ed assessment movement, we still aren’t doing assessment very well. So this may be a good time to reconsid...

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Is it time to update our learning goals?

Posted on March 27, 2019 at 5:40 AM Comments comments (1)

Burning Glass Technology recently released a report on a study of skills that employers included in online job postings in over 50,000 online job boards, newspapers, and employer websites.


Before I get to the meat of their findings, an important caveat: While 50,000 online employment sites sound impressive, they’re clearly not representative of all jobs sought and f...

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Why are we doing curriculum maps?

Posted on February 23, 2019 at 5:55 AM Comments comments (5)

Curriculum maps have become trendy in the last few years. They’ve built into some commercial assessment management systems. But to some faculty they’re simply one more pointless chore to be completed. Why bother creating a curriculum map?


First, what is a curriculum map? It’s a simple chart identifying the key learning goals addressed in each of the curriculum’s key elements or learning activities. A curriculum map for an academic program identifies t...

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Why Do I Assess?

Posted on January 31, 2019 at 7:45 AM Comments comments (5)

Last year was not one of the best for higher ed assessment. A couple of very negative opinion pieces got a lot of traction among higher ed people who had been wanting to say, “See? Assessment is really as stupid and pointless as I’ve always thought it was.” At some American universities, this was a major setback on assessment progress.


The higher ed assessment community came together quickly with a

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Setting meaningful benchmarks and standards, revisited

Posted on January 16, 2019 at 7:45 AM Comments comments (1)

A recent discussion on the ACCSHE listserv reminded me that setting meaningful benchmarks or standards for student learning assessments remains a real challenge. About three years ago, I wrote a blog post on setting benchmarks or standards for rubrics. Let’s revisit that and expand the concepts to assessments beyond rubrics.


The first challen...

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Getting NSSE (and other assessment) results used

Posted on December 19, 2018 at 10:55 AM Comments comments (1)

One of my treats this time of year is getting the latest annual report from the National Survey of Student Engagement. I’m an enormous fan of this survey. One reason is that it’s research-based: the questions are all about practices that research has shown help students learn and succeed. Another is that, because the questions mostly ask about specific experiences rather than satisfaction, the results are “actionable”: they make clear what institutions need to do to im...

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I'm not a fan of Bloom's

Posted on November 13, 2018 at 6:50 AM Comments comments (11)

I’m mystified by how Bloom’s taxonomy has pervaded the higher education assessment landscape. I’ve met faculty who have no idea what a rubric or a test blueprint or a curriculum map is, but it’s been burned into their brains that they must follow Bloom’s taxonomy when developing learning goals. This frustrates me no end, because I don’t think Bloom’s is the best framework for considering learning outcomes in higher education.


Bloom&#...

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Grading group work

Posted on October 27, 2018 at 10:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Collaborative learning, better known as group work, is an important way for students to learn. Some students learn better with their peers than by working alone. And employers very much want employees who bring teamwork skills.


But group work, such as a group presentation, is one of the hardest things for faculty to grade fairly. One reason is that many student groups include some slackers and some overactive eager beavers. When viewing the product of a group assignment̵...

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Consider professionalism as a learning goal

Posted on September 23, 2018 at 10:35 AM Comments comments (0)

A recent Inside Higher Ed piece, “The Contamination of Student Assessment” by Jay Sterling Silver, argued that behaviors such as class attendance and class participation shouldn’t be factored into grades because grades should be “unadulterated measurements of knowledge and skills that we represent them to be...

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Should rubrics be assignment-specific?

Posted on September 2, 2018 at 8:25 AM Comments comments (3)

In a recent guest post in Inside Higher Ed, “What Students See in Rubrics,” Denise Krane explained her dissatisfaction with rubrics, which can be boiled down to this statement toward the end of her post, “Ideally, rubrics are assignment specific.”


I don’t know where Denise got this idea, but it’s flat-out wrong. As I’v...

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Is assessment worth it?

Posted on August 14, 2018 at 8:50 AM Comments comments (1)

A while back, a faculty member teaching in a community college career program told me, “I don’t need to assess. I know what my students are having problems with—math.”


Well, maybe so, but I’ve found that my perceptions often don’t match reality, and systematic evidence gives me better insight. Let me give you a couple of examples.


Example #1: you may have noticed that my

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Should assessments be conducted on a cycle?

Posted on July 30, 2018 at 8:20 AM Comments comments (2)

I often hear questions about how long an “assessment cycle” should be. Fair warning: I don’t think you’re going to like my answer.


The underlying premise of the concept of an assessment cycle is that assessment of key program, general education, or institutional learning goals is too burdensome to be completed in its entirety every year, so it’s okay for assessments to be staggered across two or more years. Let’s unpack that premise a bit....

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Should we abolish the word "demonstrate" from our assessment lexicon?

Posted on July 15, 2018 at 7:45 AM Comments comments (7)

The word “demonstrate” in learning goals raises a red flag for me. Consider these (real) learning goals:

  • Demonstrate fundamental business and entrepreneurship skills
  • Demonstrate critical and creative thinking.
  • Demonstrate information literacy skills.
  • Demonstrate teamwork and collaboration.
  • Demonstrate ethical self-awareness.
  • Demonstrate personal responsibility.


Clearly the people who wrote these learning go...

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