You know that phrase, “Preaching to the choir?” As I read more and more of the literature about assessment in higher ed (theory, empirical research, best practices, models) assigned in the WASC Assessment Leadership Academy, that phrase keeps coming out of my mouth: preaching to the choir. I am in the choir! See – here I am, singing my loudest about teaching, learning, and assessment in higher education (bottom row / left side: white hair, glasses, beard):
(Ok, that’s really not me and I am really not in *that* choir. But it’s a great picture of a choir, from a university, so it seemed appropriate.)
For me the real question becomes: Nice and all, but how do we reach the congregation? And even more so, how do we reach the greater community about the value of wondering if our students learn what we want them to learn?
Here’s a perfect example, a lovely little song in Marilee Bresciani’s Outcomes-Based Academic and Co-Curricular Review that I believe I, myself, have sung around these halls on more than one occasion:
In many good practice institutions, the expectation was made clear that assessment is not an “add on” — that program review is not a process that is set aside, to be thought of only once every five, seven, or ten years. It should be a process of reflection that is built into day-to-day work. In this model, time is not taken away from teaching, it is invested in improving teaching. Time is not taken away from providing services, it is invested in improving services. Time is not taken away from discipline research, the research informs the design and assessment of student learning. (p. 134)
Preaching to the choir! I know it; I get it. I’m sold!
Creating A Campus Culture That Values Assessment, an article that summarizes an online seminar led by Linda Suskie, speaks to my concern about engaging my campus in a way that helps us all value assessment. Suskie’s ideas as summarized in this article include: focus on teaching and learning, innovation and collaboration, campus culture and people, and promoting and rewarding good practices. Check it out – these are good ideas. These will help me sing my song, and sing loudly and with confidence.
I also need to keep the idea of the universal change principle in mind: learning must precede change. (I am a teacher; I should know this!) In the chapter Leadership & Change by David Lick in the Field Guide to Academic Leadership, I am reminded to ask:
- What learning must take place before this change effort can be successfully implemented?
When I can answer and address this, then the song I want to sing about teaching, learning, assessment — and the value of attending to all three in an integrated and meaningful way — might just become a choral masterpiece. I am working on that, but in the meantime, I will keep singing my heart out, one stanza at a time.