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J.C. McDermott, F. Chapel

Antioch University Los Angeles (UNITED STATES)
The goals of assessment are designed to:
• Measure growth over time for all students and candidates
• Determine the strengths and challenges that need to be addressed
• Provide the external communities with research-based evidence
• Assure our community of faculty and students a responsive perspective to the changing needs of education.

Over time the international community has increased its interest in a wide array of assessment perspectives as the standardization of the K-12 curriculum has occurred. This process is now being felt at the university level. Ultimately educators are being asked to demonstrate that what is being taught is being “caught.” How do we know that what we say we are teaching is in fact being learned. How do we as a community of learners who are committed to our mission provide opportunities for students and faculty to demonstrate to each other that our assessment evaluation processes meet the goals we have established?

In 1996 Rick Davies began to experiment with a means of monitoring changes in a development aid project in Africa. He wanted the participants that he was working with to focus on outcomes and the impact of those outcomes personally in order to systematically collect and analyze significant change. The Most Significant Change Technique (MSCT) was created and both the thesis and the MSC were informed by an evolutionary epistemology.

One of the key processes of this technique is asking questions such as, Looking back over the last month, what do you think was the most significant change in your thinking?”

This is just one type of question that can be asked. But in using this technique, Davies and others have found that this process can provide thick descriptions for analysis as well as a systemic process to select analyses, transparency, a way to verify changes, active participation and collaboration between story tellers. It is an appreciative inquiry process that allows for full participation from all parties.

Essentially, the process involves the collection of significant change (SC) stories emanating from the field level, and in our case from the students and the systematic selection of the most significant of these stories. Once changes have been captured, the faculty read the stories and have discussions about the value of these reported changes, and which they think is most significant of all. These ideas are then used to create change in the department and are shared with the students.

The Key questions for us involve the story teller’s response to their learning experience. Students tell us that they have been changed by their experience and this is one way to capture that assessment. Sample questions might include:
• From your point of view, describe the most significant change that has resulted from your involvement?
• Why is this significant to you?
• What do you think created this change?
• What changes were you expecting that did not occur?

Students are asked to complete a MSC response for each of their courses and their capstone that is given to their instructor at the end of each quarter. These responses are added to the narrative evaluation and shared with the core department faculty. Responses are used to make changes in the program This process has been quite successful in modeling a reflective process for students as well as providing very robust results to inform changes to the program.