Linda Suskie

  A Common Sense Approach to Assessment in Higher Education


An easy, inexpensive, meaningful way to close the assessment loop

Posted on October 29, 2017 at 9:50 AM

Assessment results are often used to make tweaks to individual courses and sometimes individual programs. It can be harder to figure out how to use assessment results to make broad, meaningful change across a college or university. But here’s one way to do so: Use assessment results to drive faculty professional development programming.

Here’s how it might work.

An assessment committee or some other appropriate group reviews annual assessment reports from academic programs and gen ed requirements. As they do, they notice some repeated concerns about shortcomings in student learning. Perhaps several programs note that their students struggle to analyze data. Perhaps several others note that quite a few students aren’t citing sources properly. Perhaps several others are dissatisfied with their students’ writing skills.

Note that the committee doesn’t need reports to be in a common format or share a common assessment tool in order to make these observations. This is a qualitative, not quantitative, analysis of the assessment reports. The committee can make a simple list of the single biggest concern with student learning mentioned in each report, then review the list and see what kinds of concerns are mentioned most often.

The assessment committee then shares what they’ve noticed with whoever plans faculty professional development programming—what’s often called a teaching-learning center. The center can then plan workshops, brown-bag lunch discussions, learning communities, or other professional development opportunities to help faculty improve student achievement of these learning goals.

There needn’t be much if any expense in offering such opportunities. Assessment results are used to decide how professional development resources are used, not necessarily increase professional development resources.

Categories: Sharing & using results

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Reply Ellen Peters
3:08 PM on October 29, 2017 
Thanks Linda! This is great. We'd developed a grassroots committee here at the University of Puget Sound, and this is a really wise next step for us. We currently review the annual assessment reports, and provide feedback with not only areas of growth, but highlighting work that can be held up as a model for other departments. Taking that to the next step by working it into faculty development workshops instead of just as a written resource is a really complement to the work. Thanks!
Reply Nhung Pham
2:55 PM on October 29, 2017 
This is really a good point. When seeing the lowest self evaluation scores of actions for improvement university wide, I coded the actions for improvement section to find out the patterns and emphasize this part in the program training. I will do the same coding this year to see if they have any improvement.