THE ASSESSMENT MOVEMENT: FACULTY CAN LEAD THE WAY!
Assessment is currently a major activity in higher education, and in education at all levels. Funding levels, teacher raises, committee approvals for teacher promotions and the granting of tenure, are all linked in some way, directly or indirectly with how well students are learning. Tests for students have become increasingly routine to measure how well students are learning and even, what exactly they are learning in schools across the United States and beyond.
For the past few years, as assessment has been introduced and taken hold as a major activity of departments and colleges, it has been pushed and promoted by administrators. Faculty have been slow to accept the importance of assessment and have even argued against its necessity. Accrediting agencies including regional groups like the Middle States Association Commission on Higher Education, State Education Departments, and various professional discipline specific accrediting groups, such as the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business, the AACSB, have embraced the importance of assessment. Many of these groups have made assessment, and their assessing of a school’s assessment data, a vital element of the school’s accreditation or re-accreditation. As the support for assessment has become more organized by the important associations that measure school quality, faculty have been required to deal with the assessment question.
Why do so many faculty fear and dread the word ”Assessment?” Faculty are committed to effective teaching and assessment is simply measuring how effective their teaching is. So what’s the matter? Mention assessment at any faculty meeting and many present look as enthused as if they were marooned in the middle of a snowstorm with no way out. There may be several possible reasons for this dread of assessment among faculty. Let’s look at exactly what assessment is, who is doing the assessing, and how the results are being used. The answers to all of these three issues may well lead us closer to an understanding of the dread and ineffectiveness of many assessment attempts.
First, it is important to define assessment. Second, this paper will examine briefly the rise of assessment “movement,” and look at what is commonly meant by assessment, particularly at the college and university levels. Third, the relationship between assessment and competency based education will be reviewed. What makes a student “competent?” Who decides if a student is competent? Is this the role of the teacher of the course, a committee specially formed for the purpose of evaluating competency, a regularly established department in the college, or an administrator? Fourth, what are some of the best practices used in the assessment "movement" at various schools where they have experienced positive results? Can these practices be applied universally?.
Finally, what is the interest of those outside of academy in assessment by schools; is the interest meaningful and will it continue in the future?
The paper will examine writings and research on assessment and actual models of assessment at selected schools, where the data is available.