Monday, July 18, 2011

"Teaching Them How to Think"

By: Dan Berrett

AEFIS Response:
Pat Hutchings, senior associate at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, was quoted in the recent Inside Higher Ed article “Teaching Them How to Think” by Dan Berrett. Our Team shares his sentiments:

“’Assessment means asking if students are learning what I think I'm teaching,’ said Hutchings. ‘My sense is that what we need to think about now is how faculty can take back assessment. It's been possessed by others, if you will.’”

If you have met with our Team to discuss assessment, you have heard our two mechanisms for measuring student learning:

1. Brain surgery – really opening things up and seeing what students are understanding,

2. Organizing direct and indirect measurements to:

        A. Survey students on what they think they are learning,

       B. Ask students direct questions on specific topics and evaluation results,

      C. Set outcomes and performance criteria,

     D. Survey graduates on job searches and career successes,

     E. Survey faculty on what they think they are teaching.

Our Team recommends the latter because the first can get messy. There is proven success that this sort of data collection can be used for continuous course and programmatic improvement – however, Hutchings notes an important point in the feedback loop. Instructors are the link between students and institutions – they are the faces of higher education. Thus, it is important for faculty to embrace and receive clout for innovating assessment practices.

Focus on curriculum vitae for promotion and publication processes is so great that there is room for valuable involvement and impressive experience in assessment and efforts to improve student learning in higher education. Consider the multitude of assessment conferences with opportunities for publication annually and the environments for assessment discussion and research.

When next making updates to your CV – take a second look at those few areas that you have room for growth: department service, major administrative responsibilities -- and find ways to work with your departments to get involved in assessment.

Becky Joyce, AEFIS Team