Monday, October 30, 2006

Assessment and Alverno College

This Chronicle article (subscription required) explains the great strides made at institutional assessment of student learning made by Alverno College - a small women's Catholic school in Milwaukee. Our state department of education brought in reps from Alverno as we approached our new state standards several years ago and while they had great ideas, they simply were NOT transferrable to a larger setting. The professors actually stated that their assessment responsibilities replaced any publication responsibilities (as part of the sacred trinity of research, teaching, and service). And basic tests of knowledge of any type simply don't measure student learning well.

I do like the point made in the article about how the goal is to measure student learning and get them actively engaged in learning versus solely attempting to receive - not always earn - a passing grade. However, that would take smaller classes than even our small regional state university averages.

There seems to be a disconnect between whether we are most interested in engaging students in learning as much as they can and whether or not we can get them to pass a state or national test that may or may not have much to do with actual learning that translates into classroom practice when they become teachers.

The case of Alverno is a great case study of what works but making it transfer to larger populations does not allow for the types of comparisons and contrasts and evaluation desired.

And, I'm still trying to figure out what a course grade is if it isn't evaluation . . . .

I think that you're largely right about Alverno. The system works for them, but I'm not sure that meeting outcomes and assigning grades are mutually exclusive.
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