Has assessment improved learning?

I’ve been hearing a lot about assessment of learning outcomes lately. The Chronicle has a skeptical story about this stuff, here:

… Because it’s fairly obvious that assessment has not caused (and probably will not cause) positive changes in student learning, and because it’s clear that this has been an open secret for a while, one wonders why academic administrators have been so acquiescent about assessment for so long.

Here’s why: It’s no accident that the rise of learning-outcomes assessment has coincided with a significant expansion in the use of adjunct faculty, the growth of dual enrollment, and the spread of online education. Each of these allows administrators to deliver educational product to their customers with little or no involvement from the traditional faculty.

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5 Responses to Has assessment improved learning?

  1. honest Uncle Bernie says:

    “David Eubanks, assistant vice president for assessment and institutional effectiveness at Furman University”

    When does UO get to have one of these? Or do we already? For the price of 10 or 15 adjuncts, we can probably have a dandy office for this.

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    • uomatters says:

      Let’s not be hasty Bernie, we’re both lifers. Perhaps the administration should convene a Working Group to ask the Senate to appoint a Task Force to nominate members for a Committee to conduct a search for a VP for Effective Excellence?

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  2. honest Uncle Bernie says:

    Splendid! As long as we get release time for all that work.

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    • uomatters says:

      It’s a life sentence, no time off for good behavior.

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  3. Birdy says:

    “Has assessment improved learning?” I think this is the wrong question — a better one would be: has assessment improved teaching? And the answer to that is obviously yes. I would argue that virtually every teacher considers what worked and what didn’t work in their classes, and looked for ways to improve. This is assessment. To say that assessment does not improve teaching seems equivalent to saying that experience has no value. As far as learning goes, that is the student’s responsibility.

    The formal written assessments that get passed on to administrators are largely a waste of time, in my opinion (I do one for every section for the benefit of our accrediting agency). While new delivery methods may have sparked the assessment movement, I claim that the real impetus is simply behavioral economics. An assessment program seems like perfectly reasonable thing. Promoting assessment on your campus makes you appear committed to students and the University’s mission. It is the right thing to do in the sense that it garners approval from important vertices in your social/professional network.

    My point is that people generally do not make choices to maximize utility (whatever that is), they make choices to maximize their prestige in the network (whatever that is). If you point out that the formal assessment process has little value then you risk being sanctioned, and this is why “David Eubanks has taken a courageous position”.

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