AAN Panel on Learning Assessment

On Friday 2/16 I was part of a panel sponsored by the Academic Advancement Network on Learning Assessment. Fellow panelists Stephen Thomas, Justin Bruner, Becky Matz and I were asked the following questions with conversation among us and the group following.

The word “assessment” means different things to different people and roles. What does learning assessment mean to you?

For me assessment is about understanding what the student has learned, or how they’ve moved the needle so to speak in terms of advancing their thinking or understanding of an issue. In our work with credentialing we really need to understand how the student is making connections of these kind of seemingly disparate events or activities that they’re doing in order to show that the sum is greater than the parts.

How do you talk to people you work with about assessment? At the college or program level, how does that translate into helping faculty and colleagues understand what you’re trying to achieve or assess?

We really start by talking about goals and objectives and understanding what it really is that we want to know. You can’t assess anything unless you know what you want to assess and too often when we start thinking about assessment we haven’t considered what our initial goals were and so we have no real way to assess.

Stephen’s comment about classroom assessment and program assessment was a really good point, one that shows that we often think about assessment as on a programmatic level and mostly with a negative connotation. Michael Lockett pointed out as well that in post-secondary education we often conflate assessment and evaluation, and that if we were to think about it in a way like K12 or other areas where evaluation happens by combining numerous assessments.

How do you see technology impacting your assessment practices? What does that mean for you?

As always, technology should be used in support of the work that we are doing or as a lever to make things easier or more efficient. Sometimes it can make things more effective, but all too often the assumption is that the technology makes things more effective without some real planning about it.

For me the technology is allowing me to better show the goals and objectives that we’ve set out for the students ahead of time so so they are wandering around in a “fog”. The achievement system that we’ve been working with Brian Adams, Nate Lounds and others has been a great way of showing how the technology can help the students to understand where they are in a program so that they can best participate and choose ways to participate.

How do you see assessment impacting teaching and learning practices in the classroom? Do you see an impact?

When we are better able to assess learning accurately, we are better able to make adjustments to our teaching practices that will ideally yield better learning. When we can understand what students are learning better, we can best scaffold and teach more or present more learning opportunity for the students and help them figure out how to support their own learning. This is really where I see and advantage for us if we’re thinking about these things early on in a student’s career so they aren’t spending the majority of their student career here not really understanding why, what and how they need could be learning things.