Linda Suskie

  A Common Sense Approach to Assessment in Higher Education

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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 (0)

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 (4)

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 (0)

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 (9)

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 (2)

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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Getting started with meeting your professional development needs

Posted on June 24, 2018 at 4:30 PM Comments comments (1)

A recent paper co-sponsored by AALHE and Watermark identified some key professional development needs of assessment practitioners. 


While a book is no substitute for a rich, interactive professional development experience, some of the things that assessment practitioners want to learn about are discussed in my books

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All assessment is interesting

Posted on June 10, 2018 at 8:45 AM Comments comments (2)

Architecture critic Kate Wagner recently said, “All buildings are interesting. There is not a single building that isn’t interesting in some way.” I think we can say the same thing about assessment: All assessment is interesting. There is not a single assessment that isn’t interesting in some way.


Kate points out that what makes seemin...

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What are the characteristics of well-stated learning goals?

Posted on May 27, 2018 at 7:40 AM Comments comments (0)

When I help faculty and co-curricular staff move ahead with their assessment efforts, I probably spend half our time on helping them articulate their learning goals. As the years have gone by, I’ve become ever more convinced that learning goals are the foundation of an assessment structure…and without a solid foundation, a structure can’t be well-constructed.


So what are well-stated learning goals? They have the following characteristics:


...

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Some learning goals are promises we can't keep

Posted on May 2, 2018 at 6:55 AM Comments comments (0)

I look on learning goals as promises that we make to students, employers, and society: If a student passes a course or graduates, he or she WILL be able to do the things we promise in our learning goals.


But there are some things we hope to instill in students that we can’t guarantee. We can’t guarantee, for example, that every graduate will be a passionate lifelong learner, appreciate artistic expressions, or make ethical decisions. I think these kinds of statem...

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Value and respect: The keys to assessment success

Posted on March 28, 2018 at 6:25 AM Comments comments (1)

In my February 28 blog post, I noted that many faculty express frustration with assessment along the following lines:


  • What I most want students to learn is not what’s being assessed.
  • I’m being told what and how to assess, without any input from me.
  • I’m being told what to teach, without any input from me.
  • I’...
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Making assessment worthwhile

Posted on March 13, 2018 at 9:50 AM Comments comments (9)

In my February 28 blog post, I noted that many faculty have been expressing frustration that assessment is a waste of an enormous amount of time and resources that could be better spent on teaching. Here are some strategies to help make sure your assessment activities are meaningful and cost-effective, all drawn from the new third edition of

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What do faculty really think about assessment?

Posted on March 4, 2018 at 8:05 AM Comments comments (1)

The vitriol in some recent op-ed pieces and the comments that followed them might leave the impression that faculty hate assessment. Well, some faculty clearly do, but a national survey suggests that they’re in the minority.


The Faculty Survey of Assessment Culture,...

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