Monday, June 27, 2011

Academic Assessment Googled

Instructors continue to stress to students that internet research can be dangerous when it comes to finding accurate information – but we are all guilty of looking to Google or Bing for quick answers to questions. With my professional life devoted to academic assessment technologies, I recently indulged my curiosities about what the Google-found definition of academic assessment and therefore what the public’s perception of the term may be.

I was pleasantly surprised to come across a great definition of academic assessment in the first Google entry from Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York (

Tom Angelo once summarized it this way: "Assessment is an ongoing process aimed at understanding and improving student learning. It involves making our expectations explicit and public; setting appropriate criteria and high standards for learning quality; systematically gathering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence to determine how well performance matches those expectations and standards; and using the resulting information to document, explain, and improve performance. When it is embedded effectively within larger institutional systems, assessment can help us focus our collective attention, examine our assumptions, and create a shared academic culture dedicated to assuring and improving the quality of higher education."

Further exploration of the Skidmore College site, exposed a treasure trove of assessment resources including links to other institutional webpages and tools. These tools are even organized by discipline. With any research, one source often prompts the researcher to ask additional or different questions – so I continued my hunt for academic assessment resources by returning to Google with some of these questions. To start, who is Tom Angelo? Again, I was pleasantly surprised to be directed to a single webpage with a biography, recent workshop materials and video for a conference presentation by Dr. Angelo ( Additional Dr. Angelo writings revealed other superstar names in assessment, well-known assessment publications and national organizations for assessment, including Dr. Peter Ewell, Change magazine, and The National Center for Academic Transformation.

To bring this all back together, I will quote Dr. Angelo: “The only reason to do assessment is to improve the thing we care about.” He also mentions that assessment practices are often unsuccessful on campuses because they are piecemeal across institutions. These concepts are most certainly also applied to our online search practices. The AEFIS Team seeks to minimize these piecemeal efforts by bringing students, faculty, administrators, alumni and industry to one platform for assessment processes using the AEFIS Solution AND to bring assessment planners to one discussion through the AEFIS Assessment Collaborative.
Becky Joyce, AEFIS Team

Monday, June 13, 2011

"Assessment Disconnect"

AEFIS Response:
The article from early last year, “Assessment Disconnect,” received a great deal of negative feedback in a matter of one day. The negativity honed in on the ineffectiveness of assessment in higher education and the lack of evidence that there is to support actively pursuing assessment data in institutions. Academic freedom and diversity were brought to question in many of the article’s comments – regarding the idea that assessment and accreditation are synonymous with standardization.

Most accrediting agencies provide broad learning goals with minimal direction on instruction or means for assessment. Such vagueness invites institutions, programs, and even individual instructors to develop curriculum freely and to find creative means for students to attain high level goals. Additionally, collecting data against these goals provides perspective on the effectiveness of student learning and sheds light on areas that need to be reinforced for success in related career fields. Students attend institutions to work toward career goals and most seek employment related to their fields after earning their degrees. This statement is applicable to engineering, medical, philosophy, design, performance arts…all students! Thus, assessment must be applicable to all students and any discipline. This conclusion opens a new question, instead of whether or not to assess – how to assess.

Finding methods for assessment is similar to developing strong instructional methods. Practices should reinforce the mission and values of the institution. There are great opportunities for the development of best practices through collaboration. And, there are many assessment conferences annually that invite institutions to share ideas and brainstorm means for growth and improvement. Check out to learn more about many of these conferences and how to get involved.
Becky Joyce, AEFIS Team