Assessment, Curriculum, and Student Learning
Title: One-Shot Deal? Student's Perceptions of Assessment and Course Placement in California's Community Colleges
Author: Andrea Venezia, Kathy Reeves Bracco and Thad Nodine
The California Community Colleges system, with an enrollment of about 2.9 million students annually at 112 colleges, is the largest system of postsecondary education in the world. Open enrollment policies at the colleges ensure that anyone age 18 or older can attend, and younger students can take courses as well. By providing this opportunity, California has, year after year, opened the doors of higher education to a substantial portion of its young population. The state has been less successful, however, in preparing high school students to succeed in college-level courses and ensuring that those in college complete their postsecondary educational programs.
Title: Opening Doors to Faculty Involvement in Assessment
Desc: The assessment literature is replete with admonitions about the importance of faculty involvement, a kind of gold standard widely understood to be the key to assessment's impact "on the ground," in classrooms where teachers and students meet. Unfortunately, much of what has been done in the name of assessment has failed to engage large numbers of faculty in significant ways.
In this paper, I examine the dynamics behind this reality, including the mixed origins of assessment, coming both from within and outside academe, and a number of obstacles that stem from the culture and organization of higher education itself. I then identify more recent developments that promise to alter those dynamics, including and especially the rising level of interest in teaching and learning as scholarly, intellectual work. I close by proposing six ways to bring the purposes of assessment and the regular work of faculty closer together: 1) Build assessment around the regular, ongoing work of teaching and learning; 2) Make a place for assessment in faculty development; 3) Integrate assessment into the preparation of graduate students; 4) Reframe assessment as scholarship; 5) Create campus spaces and occasions for constructive assessment conversation and action; and 6) Involve students in assessment. Together, these strategies can make faculty involvement more likely and assessment more useful.
Title: The Trouble with Learning Outcomes
Author: Trevor Hussey and Patrick Smith
Desc: Recent decades have seen an increasing stress on the need to monitor and manage educators, and hold them to account. This article argues that, while learning outcomes can be valuable if properly used, they have been misappropriated and adopted widely at all levels within the education system to facilitate the managerial process. This has led to their distortion. The claim that they can be made precise by being written with a prescribed vocabulary of special descriptors so as to serve as objective, measurable devices for monitoring performance, is fundamentally mistaken, and they may be damaging to education when used in this way. After a brief sketch of the background to the notion of learning outcomes, arguments are presented to show their vacuity and uselessness when misused in this way, and explanations of their inadequacies are offered.