On Tending To Weeds

I spent last week at Session 1 of the WASC Assessment Leadership Academy and came back with a notebook and brain full of ideas about assessment, teaching, learning, leadership, higher education, and my own sense of place in the landscape. I had the true pleasure of learning from 2 masters — Amy Driscoll and Mary Allen — as well as 2 amazing guest faculty — John Tagg and Peter Ewell. And of course, there were 31 other “masters” in our group as well, each of us offering our own expertise, resources, ideas, and energies to the group. I am so grateful that we get to be together, learning together, again in 6 weeks, and then again in January.  (I am equally grateful for the wiki we set up to keep us together between sessions!)

"They keep coming back" from Indexed

And of course, true to my nature, I came back with not one focused project idea, but 20+ unfocused project ideas. My list of “weeds” goes on and on, and so now the sorting process needs to happen. Fortunately, I’ve been through this phenomenon before with both my Master’s thesis and my dissertation, and I trust my brain’s process to sort, prioritize, and eventually focus. I guess I should also be grateful that there’s no shortage of projects on my to-do list.

I do have a kernel of a great idea that I’m pretty excited about: an assessment of the library on student learning, specifically information literacy. I am eager to meet with our library director and see if this is something she’s interested in as well. I’m imagining the development of some curriculum maps that include course and program outcomes — and maybe even specific assignments — as well as the development of a rubric to assess the extent to which students are demonstrating information literacy, and then linking it back to instruction they receive by / in the library. The opportunity to make students’ library-based learning visible is exciting, and I think we can showcase it here.

In the meantime, these projects and ideas keep growing in my head like weeds. And now, on this first day of summer term, I am back in the organic matter of my own garden here, tending to the seeds that we have been planting for the last several years, watering the full-grown plants that are producing the ‘fruit’ of good assessment (um, that fruit would in fact be learning!), and trying to keep the bugs and slugs away so that growth can continue to happen. (I could extend the metaphor to include the search for sun in Portland, Oregon, but that might be taking it too far.)

But I am not sure what to do about all these weeds; they keep gathering and growing, some on the verge of blooms, some crowding out others, some pushing through the hard-packed earth of my skull. Instead of picking them all and getting them out of the way,  I think I just might tend to them a bit and see if, like good dandelions, they can result in some really great wine.

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