Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Problem with Outcomes Assessment in Higher Education

I don't think I've ever met a teaching faculty member in my life that hasn't at least once thought that the current system of outcomes assessment used by American universities is a waste of time and effort. Pontuso and Thornton explain its problems in this Thought & Action article:

There is a very simple way for accrediting agencies to assess whether students are learning. Rather than reinventing the wheel by using slick language (such as “student outcomes”) that doesn't mean anything, they should look at randomly selected course syllabi, reading assignments, term papers, tests, and student evaluations. It would be more work for assessors, since they would have to learn something about fields of study not their own, but it is a more effective way to judge whether students are learning. There may be an added benefit to this method: perhaps evaluators will discourage the grade inflation that has become the other scandalous bane of higher education. ...

Teachers assess all the time. They read student papers and exams to discover if students have learned. They ask questions in class and engage students in discussion. They look over student evaluations to see if the way they are interacting with students is being well-received. They are always trying to find better ways to help students grasp the material.Why do they need to spend time in another elaborate and meaningless type of assessment? For good teachers, outcomes assessment is mostly a distraction; for bad ones, it provides a bureaucratic cover to validate what they are doing.

No comments: