In their book Developing Outcomes-based Assessment for Learner-centered Education, which we are reading for the Assessment Leadership Academy, Amy Driscoll and Swarup Wood share stories about their work with faculty developing their practices in teaching, learning, and assessment at CSU Monterey Bay. For one thing, they make CSUMB sound like Higher Education Utopia On Steroids. And in many ways it might be: it’s relatively new, it was designed from the ground up to be learner-centered and outcomes-based, and, well, Amy and Swarup work there (I just have a feeling, having attended a session with both of them a few years ago at a conference, that they’d be amazing to work with). Oh – and CSU Monterey Bay is in a lovely area of the world, too. So yeah . . . in a nutshell, Higher Ed Utopia On Steroids.
There are lots of good assessment ideas in their book and I’m taking it all in (I especially love the Faculty Learning Community model they have in place). For example, they share CSUMB’s philosophy of assessment:
Assessment is a dynamic pedagogy that enhances, extends, supports, and expands student learning.
That’s right: Assessment IS a pedagogy. Not separate from pedagogy, but IS pedagogy. And it also has an important purpose: to foster learning! How about that?!? How great is this philosophy?!?
They also share a set of questions from Huba and Freed (2000) intended as an inquiry framework for use in assessing assessment. Here they are – let’s get meta:
- Does assessment lead to improvement so that faculty can fulfill their responsibilities to students and to the public?
- Does assessment focus on using data to address questions that people in the program and at the institution really care about?
- Is assessment based on a conceptual relationship among teaching, curriculum, learning, and assessment at the institution?
- Do faculty feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for assessment?
- Do faculty focus on experiences leading to outcomes as well as the outcomes themselves?
I need to take these questions to our Assessment Committee — to our faculty as a whole — and use them to think about what we’re doing well and where we could make improvements in becoming a learning-centered institution. For example, an answer to #4 might be: Yes, but also a sense of burden. It’s time consuming; it’s hard; it’s a lot of work … and that’s all true. And I also know there are great rewards and it is best if it’s part of the teaching-learning process, since it IS pedagogy.
One more nugget to share is this seemingly simple question that Swarup asks at the very end of Chapter 5, about the relationship of content to learning:
Shall we teach to deliver content or use content to help students answer meaningful questions?
This is a much better question than the one I have asked of faculty in helping them think about learning and assessment: Do you teach content, or do you teach students? Because clearly the answer is both and one can greatly serve the other.
Huba, M.E. & Freed, J.E. (2000). Learner-centered assessment on college campuses. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.