Friday, July 19, 2013

Learning Outcomes and Assessment

Interesting story in IHE today about mandatory assessment of learning outcomes in Iowa. What I found most interesting, however, was the vast amount of naivete among those posting comments. Folks, this is coming to a college near you whether they pass a law or not. This is a requirement for every college and university that wants it accreditation reaffirmed in the southeastern US, and in many other regions from what I can gather. It was, for example, prominently mentioned as an issue at San Francisco City College. I'm not sure if we are in the second or third wave of colleges required to do it, but we are early enough that I can understand why this is still news to the majority of faculty. My opinion, having done this for awhile, is that it is a useful exercise. I've learned a lot about what my students learn, even if it is relatively short-term learning as reflected at the time of the final exam. My main objection is to how we report our data, but I keep my own version as well since that can inform future development of the course. They want the results for every student in the class, but IMHO it is a mistake to lump failures in with those who passed. To me, it is a good thing when students who failed the class did so because they failed to achieve most of the expected outcomes defined for the course. And I don't think it is a failure of the course if they didn't learn because they chose to not attend class or do the homework or participate in active learning exercises in class. (They think I don't notice when they are playing on their phone, but I know exactly why person X could not do the kinds of problems that dropped him from an A to a B.) I'm most interested in what was missed by students who fail (to help them learn those topics) and what was missed by those that pass (ditto). In both cases it can be quite surprising to see what they learn from specific subsets of the course. PS - The significant extra work required to develop these and collect the data is one reason that I have not blogged very much lately.

Read Entire Article......