on: The Next Frontier in Assessment of Student Learning"
After some 25 years of the US assessment movement, it's time for us to shift our focus. till now, we've largely been concerned with how to do this new thing, and our conversations have been mostly about the process. Now the time has come to talk more publicly about our findings -- what students actually learn and how well they learn it. We need to analyze our findings; figure out what the findings mean; make the necessary changes; and then share our inquiries at conferences, in journal articles, and in other venues, both scholarly and popular. In the process, we'll have to tackle the question of what, exactly, is "good enough." The federal government, employers, and the general public all want to know how well we're doing in relation to a standard that is as yet only implicit. Colleges and universities need to be able to say not just THAT our students learn to write or think critically or work in diverse groups, but HOW WELL. We educators need to develop robust, persuasive ways to answer that question and communicate the answer -- without reliance on standardized tests. If we don't do that, and quickly, there are others who will be more than willing to step in and tell us how.
Barbara Wright has been an associate director for the Senior Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges since 2005. Prior to that, she coordinated assessment efforts at Eastern Connecticut State University and led an assessment initiative for the Connecticut State University System. Wright began her faculty career at the University of Connecticut, where she taught German language and literature for more than 25 years. Her interest in assessment was born in 1988, when she became director of a FIPSE-funded project to assess a new general education curriculum at UConn.
She subsequently served from 1990 to 1992 as director of the American Association for Higher Educationís Assessment Forum, and she continued to write and consult in the field of assessment after returning to Connecticut. Wright believes that her training in literature, her experience living abroad, and her interdisciplinary proclivities have equipped her well to take a faculty-friendly, humanistic approach to the thorny issue of how best to assess and improve student learning.
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