Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide

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Start at the end and work backwards. If your program has a capstone requirement, students should be demonstrating achievement in many key program learning goals in it. Help everyone learn what to do. While we all learn from experience and do things better the second time, help everyone learn what to do so, their first assessment is a useful one. Minimize paperwork and bureaucratic layers.

Faculty are already routinely assessing student learning through the grading process. What some resent is not the work of grading but the added workload of compiling, analyzing, and reporting assessment evidence from the grading process. Make this process as simple, intuitive, and useful as possible. Make assessment technologies an optional tool, not a mandate.

Only a tiny number of accreditors require using a particular assessment information management system. If a system is hard to learn, creates more work, or is expensive, it will create resentment and make things worse rather than better. I recently encountered one system for which faculty had to tally and analyze their results, then enter the tallied results into the system.

Be sensible about staggering assessments. Help everyone find time to talk. Help them carve out time on their calendars for these important conversations. This makes clear that assessment is about understanding and improving student learning, not just a hoop to jump through to address some administrative or accreditation mandate. The vitriol in some recent op-ed pieces and the comments that followed them might leave the impression that faculty hate assessment. So the survey may not represent what faculty throughout the U. Here are the percentages who agreed or strongly agreed with each statement.

Statements that are positive about assessment are in green; those that are negative about assessment are in red. Most faculty agreed with most positive statements about assessment, and most disagreed with most negative statements. Survey researchers know that people are more apt to agree than disagree with a statement, so I also looked at the percentages of faculty who disagreed or strongly disagreed with each statement. Again, the positive statements are in green and the negative ones in red.

We want small proportions of faculty to disagree with the positive statements about assessment, and for the most part they do. About a third disagree that assessment results and success stories are shared, but that matches what we saw with the agree-strongly agree results. But there are also areas of concern here. Less than a quarter disagree that budgets can be negatively impacted by assessment results and that administrators look at assessment only through a compliance lens.

The results that concerned me most? We've come a long way, but there's still plenty of work to do! Some notes on the presentation of these results: Note that I sorted results from highest to lowest, rounded percentages to the nearest whole percent, and color-coded "good" and "bad" statements. Those all help the key points of a very lengthy survey pop out at the reader.

Two recent op-ed pieces in the Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times —and the hundreds of online comments regarding them—make clear that, 25 years into the assessment movement, a lot of faculty really hate assessment. The world has changed! So I took a deeper dive into those comments. I did a content analysis of the articles and many of the comments that followed. The New York Times article had over comments—too many for me to handle—so I looked only at NYT comments with at least 12 recommendations.

For example, I counted how many comments mentioned that assessment is expensive. I do content analysis by listing all the comments as bullets in a Word document, then cutting and pasting the bulleted comments to group similar comments together under headings. I then cut and paste the groups so the most frequently mentioned themes are at the top of the document. But assessment is not rigorous research; we just need information good enough to help inform our thinking, and I think my analysis is fine for the purpose of figuring out how we might deal with this.

Why take the time to do a content analysis instead of just reading through the comments? It turned out, however, that there were other themes that emerged far more frequently. Maybe they do…but maybe not. So what did I find? I found that most of their complaints fall into just four broad categories:. I and what I think is important is not valued or respected. External and economic forces are behind this. Two things struck me about these four broad categories. But their anger is legitimate and something we should all work to address. First, we clearly need better information on faculty experiences and views regarding assessment so we can understand which issues are most pervasive and address them.

In the meanwhile, the good news is the comments in and accompanying these two pieces all represent solvable problems. Which writing skills did they struggle most with: Or was there another problem? For example, maybe C students were more likely to hand in assignments late or not at all. If their grades were worse, what kinds of courses seemed to be the biggest challenge for them?

Within those courses, what kinds of assignments were hardest for them? Why did they earn a poor grade on them? What writing skills did they struggle most with: Or, again, maybe there was another problem, such as poor self-discipline in getting work handed in on time. And if their GPAs were not that different from those of A and B students or even if they were , what else was going on that might have led them to leave? The problem might not be their writing skills per se. Perhaps, for example, that students with work or family obligations found it harder to devote the study time necessary to get good grades.

Providing support for that issue might help more than helping them with their writing skills. In other words, they could use the above information on the kinds and levels of writing skills that students need to succeed in subsequent courses to articulate the minimum performance levels required to earn a C.

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Instead, students must earn at least a C on every rubric criterion in order to pass the assignment. Then the As, Bs, and Cs can be averaged into an overall grade for the assignment. This would make it easy to study student performance across all sections of the course and identify pervasive strengths and weaknesses in their writing.

If some faculty members or TAs have additional grading criteria, they could simply add those to the common rubric. For example, I graded my students on their use of citation conventions, even though that was not part of the Maryland C Standard. I added that to the bottom of my rubric. This means grading students separately on whether they turn in work on time, put in sufficient effort, etc. This would help everyone understand why some students fail to graduate—is it because of poor writing skills, poor work habits, or both?

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These ideas all move responsibility for addressing the problem from administrators to the faculty. Today marks the release of the third edition of my book Assessing Student Learning: I approached Jossey-Bass about doing a third edition in response to requests from some faculty who used it as a textbook but were required to use more recent editions. But as I started work on this edition, I was immediately struck by how outdated the second edition had become in just a few short years.

The third edition is a complete reorganization and rewrite of the previous edition. We are moving from Assessment 1. Many faculty and administrators still struggle to grasp that assessment is all about improving how we help students learn, not an end in itself, and that assessments should be planned with likely uses in mind. The last edition talked about using results, of course, but new edition adds a chapter on using assessment results to the beginning of the book. We have a lot of new resources.


Learning management systems and assessment information management systems are far more prevalent and sophisticated. This edition talks about these and other valuable new resources. We are recognizing that different settings require different approaches to assessment. This edition features a new chapter on the many settings of assessment, and several chapters discuss applying concepts to specific settings. So this book has a brand new chapter on curriculum design, and the old chapter on prompts has been expanded into one on creating meaningful assignments.

We have a much better understanding of rubrics. Rubrics are now so widespread that we have a much better idea of how to design and use them. A couple of years ago I did a literature review of rubric development that turned on a lot of lightbulbs for me, and this edition reflects my fresh thinking. The chapter on this is completely rewritten, with a new section on setting standards for multiple choice tests. That this new edition is well over pages says a lot! This book has a whole chapter on keeping assessment cost-effective, especially in terms of time.

This edition stresses the need to sit back after looking through reams of assessment reports and ask, from a qualitative rather than quantitative perspective, what are we doing well? In what ways is student learning most disappointing? Pushback to assessment is moving from resistance to foot-dragging. Helping people move from getting assessment done to using it in meaningful ways remains a challenge. So the two chapters on culture in the second edition are now six. Data visualization and learning analytics are changing how we share assessment results.

These things are so new that this edition only touches on them. I think that they will be the biggest drivers in changes to assessment over the coming decade.

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  4. Some experts define rubrics very narrowly, as only analytic rubrics—the kind formatted as a grid, listing traits down the left side and performance levels across the top, with the boxes filled in. Under the broad definition of a rubric, yes, this is a rubric. It is a written guide for evaluating student work, and it lists the three traits the faculty member is looking for. Effective assessments including rubrics have the following traits:. Effective assessments yield information that is useful and used.

    Learning styles & the importance of critical self-reflection

    Students who earn less than 70 points for responding to the assignment have no idea where they fell short. Those who earn less than 15 points on organization have no idea why. Effective assessments focus on important learning goals. Yes, following directions is an important skill, but critical thinking is even more important. Effective assessments are clear. Effective assessments are fair. Here, because there are only three broad, ill-defined traits, the faculty member can be unintentionally inconsistent in grading the papers.

    Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide - Linda Suskie - Google Книги

    So the debate about an assessment should be not whether it is a rubric but rather how well it meets these four traits of effective assessment practices. A Common Sense Guide will be released on February 13 and can be pre-ordered now. The Kindle version is already available through Amazon. What I found most useful about the paper was the strong case it makes for the value of articulating learning outcomes.

    If you work with someone who doesn't see the value of articulating learning outcomes, maybe this list will help. How can programs with multiple accreditations say regional and specialized serve two or more accreditation masters without killing themselves in the process? I recently posted my thoughts on this on the ASSESS listserv, and a colleague asked me to make my contribution into a blog post as well. Start by thinking about why your institution's assessment coordinator or committee asks these programs for reports on student learning assessment. This leads to the question of why they're asking everyone to assess student learning outcomes.

    The answer is that we all want to make sure our students are learning what we think is most important, and if we're not, we want to take steps to try to improve that learning. Any reporting structure should be designed to help faculty and staff achieve those two purposes--without being unnecessarily burdensome to anyone involved. In other words, reports should be designed primarily to help decision-makers at your college. At this writing, I'm not aware of any regional accreditor that mandates that every program's assessment efforts and results must be reported on a common institution-wide template.

    When I was an assessment coordinator, I encouraged flexibility in report formats and deadlines, for that matter. Yes, it was more work for me and the assessment committee to review apples-and-oranges reports but less work and more meaningful for faculty--and I've always felt they're more important than me.

    So with this as a framework, I would suggest sitting down with each program with specialized accreditation and working out what's most useful for them. Again, this flexible approach meant more work for me, but I always felt faculty time was more precious than mine, so I always worked to make their jobs as easy as possible and their work as useful and meaningful as possible.

    Someone on the ASSESS listserv recently asked for recommendations for a good basic book for those getting started with assessment. Here are eight books I recommend for every assessment practitioner's bookshelf in addition, of course to my own Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide , whose third edition is coming out on February 4, This is a soup-to-nuts primer on student learning assessment in higher education. The authors especially emphasize organizing and implementing assessment.

    This book completely changed my thinking about rubrics. Susan Brookhart has a fairly narrow vision of how rubrics should be developed and used, but she offers persuasive arguments for doing things her way. Creating Significant Learning Experiences: Dee Fink is an advocate of backwards curriculum design: His book presents an important context for assessment: The major theme of this book is that, if assessment is going to work, it has to be for you, your colleagues, and your students, not your accreditor.

    This book is a powerful argument for moving from a compliance approach to one that makes assessment meaningful and consequential. If you feel your college is simply going through assessment motions, this book will give you plenty of practical ideas to make it more useful. Five Dimensions of Quality: I wrote this book after working for one of the U. In that work, I found myself repeatedly espousing the same basic principles, including principles for obtaining and using meaningful, useful assessment evidence. Those principles are the foundation of this book. Assessment Clear and Simple: The strength of this book is its size: This is my second favorite assessment book after my own!

    It introduces them to many important assessment ideas that apply to program and general education assessments as well. From time to time people contact me for advice, not on assessment or accreditation but for tips on how to build a consulting business. My consulting work is the culmination of 40 years of work in higher education. I began my career in institutional research, then transitioned into strategic planning and quality improvement.

    Linda Suskie, internationally acclaimed writer, speaker, trainer, and consultant on higher education assessment, is a vice president of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The second edition of this landmark book offers the same practical guidance and is designed to A Common Sense Guide.

    Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide, 3rd Edition

    The first edition of Assessing Student Learning has become the standard reference for college faculty and administrators who are charged with the task of assessing student learning within their institutions. The second edition of this landmark book offers the same practical guidance and is designed to meet ever-increasing demands for improvement and accountability.

    Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. This ed The first edition of Assessing Student Learning has become the standard reference for college faculty and administrators who are charged with the task of assessing student learning within their institutions. Paperback , pages. Published April 1st by Jossey-Bass first published May 1st To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Assessing Student Learning , please sign up.

    Be the first to ask a question about Assessing Student Learning. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Feb 05, Jenny Reading Envy rated it really liked it Shelves: This is a good overview of current practices for assessing student learning, one of the few books that focuses on higher education and remains practical in nature. I found the analyzing and communicating chapters the most useful, because I had already chosen a tool and completed the assessment part of a project.

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    Jul 11, Delores rated it really liked it Shelves: Read this for work as part of an assessment workshop. It is a fairly easy read and provides the basics of assessing student learning. What I liked was that it wasn't too "textbooky" but it could be because I have an interest in the topic. Great starting point for those new to the world of assessment.

    Dec 28, Carrie rated it really liked it. This is an excellent resource. I've read and re-read the first edition many times and I have enjoyed the updates to this second edition. I'd say this is essential to have on anyone's desk who is engaged in assessment of student learning. It will save you from trying to reinvent the wheel over and over! Jul 03, Teniell rated it really liked it Shelves: