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Seven Principles for Fostering Greater Use of Assessment Results

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

Message Number: 
1437

Adhering to these principles to guide assessment work will help campuses make better use of assessment results that will, in turn, generate the amount and quality of evidence that provides a solid basis for action.  With such evidence in hand, institutions will be better positioned to implement changes in teaching and learning on their campuses that will foster higher levels of student accomplishment.

                Folks:

The posting below looks at seven principles for increasing the effective use of assessment results. It is from Chapter 3 – Fostering Greater Use of Assessment Results: Principles for Effective Practice, by Jillian Kinzie, Pat Hutchings, and Natasha A. Jankowski, in the book, Using Evidence of Student Learning to Improve Higher Education, by George D. Kuh, Stanley O. Ikenberry, Natasha A. Jankowski, Timothy Reese Cain, Peter T. Ewell, Pat Hutchings, and Jillian Kinzie. National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment. Published by Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Brand, One Montgomery Street Suite 1200, San Francisco A 94104-4594
www.josseybass.com/highereducation

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Regards,

Rick Reis
reis@stanford.edu
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Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

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Seven Principles for Fostering Greater Use of Assessment Results
 
Gathering evidence of student learning in colleges and universities has matured over the last 35 years, in no small part because of increased pressure from external entities for institutions to know more about and be more accountable for what students gain from their undergraduate experience.  Many institutions have worked assiduously to document effective practice and develop resources to guide further good practice.  Many colleges and universities have well-designed assessment plans and are gathering evidence, and a smaller subset have used assessment results effectively.  The examples of effective assessment use profiled in this chapter and in other publications point to seven principles for increasing the effective use of assessment results.

First, gauge the value of assessment work by the extent to which results are used.  One measure of how well results are put to use is how the assessment cycle plays out in the campus assessment process.  Are assessment priorities shaped by questions and concerns for student success that anticipate the productive application of results?  Is work too often stalled in the data collection stage?  Does the sharing-results phase tend to terminate the cycle?  Where does the cycle get stuck, why, and what might free it up?

Second, identify the target for use of evidence of student learning when designing assessment work and sharing results.  Evidence of student learning has multiple uses and may raise different questions and have different uses at different levels within an institution.  Identify institution-wide or program-level goals and audiences that can be influenced by results.  Document how results are used and trace the impacts on student success.  The same assessment activity can have multiple uses at different levels at an institution.  The challenge is to present assessment and the questions it explores in a way that persuades people that the results of the inquiry will have practical value in their work, at their level.

Third, begin assessment activity with the end use in mind.  From the outset of any assessment process, consider the practical questions that are of greatest interest to potential partners – faculty, administrators, staff, and intended internal and external end users – and how the results could be used.  Just as important, what do partners and end users expect to find?  Exploring this question in an expectations exercise is a good way to stimulate concrete thinking about effective uses of assessment results.

Fourth, leverage the accreditation process for meaningful campus action to improve student learning.  Ensure that the campus benefits from all the time and energy that accreditation requires by framing this work as more than an act of compliance – as a process to move the campus toward improvement in learning, teaching, and institutional performance.

Fifth, connect assessment work to related current national initiatives and projects.  Membership associations, national organizations, foundations, and other collective initiatives provide a broader context in which to embed assessment work, learn from the work of other institutions, and to increase the impact, legitimacy, and value of assessment results.

Sixth, link assessment activity to campus functions that require evidence of student learning such as the program review process or a campus center for teaching and learning.  Assessment, as outlined in Chapters 4 and 5, is more likely to lead to action and improvement if it is sustained rather than episodic; if campus structures and processes are in place to report results, discuss implications, and plan needed action; and if decision makers – faculty members, academic leaders, and others – are engaged in the process and guiding evidence-based change.

Seventh, work purposefully toward the final stage of the assessment cycle – assessing impact, closing the assessment loop – and remember that the assessment of student learning is a continuous process. Making decisions based on assessment evidence is important, but it also marks the beginning of a new cycle.  What was the impact of the change?  Did it lead to an improvement in student learning?  Follow-through and taking time to assess the impact of evidence-based change is essential in fostering a culture that supports the meaningful use of assessment results.

Adhering to these principles to guide assessment work will help campuses make better use of assessment results that will, in turn, generate the amount and quality of evidence that provides a solid basis for action.  With such evidence in hand, institutions will be better positioned to implement changes in teaching and learning on their campuses that will foster higher levels of student accomplishment.