The past few years have ushered in more strident calls for accountability across institutions of higher learning. Various internal and external stakeholders are asking questions like "Are students learning what we want them to learn?" and "How do the students' scores from one institution compare to its peers?" As a result, more institutions are looking for new, more far-reaching ways to assess student learning and then use assessment findings to improve students' educational experiences.
However, as Trudy Banta notes in her article An Accountability Program Primer for Administrators, “just as simply weighing a pig will not make it fatter, spending millions simply to test college students is not likely to help them learn more.” (p. 6)
While assessing institutional effectiveness is a noble pursuit, measuring student learning is not always easy, and like so many things we try to quantify, there’s much more to learning than a number in a datasheet. As Roxanne Cullen and Michael Harris note in their article The Dash to Dashboards, “The difficulty we have in higher education in defining and measuring our outcomes
lies in the complexity of our business: the business of learning. A widget company or a fast-food chain has clearly defined goals and can usually pinpoint with fine accuracy where and how to address loss in sales or glitches in production or service. Higher education is being called on to be able to perform similar feats, but creating a graduate for the 21st century workforce is a very
different kind of operation.” (p. 10)
This special report Educational Assessment: Designing a System for More Meaningful Results features articles from Academic Leader, and looks at the assessment issue from a variety of different angles. Articles in the result include:
• The Faculty and Program-Wide Learning Outcome Assessment
• Assessing the Degree of Learner-Centeredness in a Department or Unit
• Keys to Effective Program-Level Assessment
• Counting Something Leads to Change in an Office or in a Classroom
• An Accountability Program Primer for Administrators
Whether you’re looking to completely change your approach to assessment, or simply improve the
efficacy of your current assessment processes, we hope this report will help guide your discussions
and eventual decisions.