On November 5, 2010, the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed reported that 71 college presidents across the United States have joined the Presidents’ Alliance for Excellence in Student Learning and Accountability. “They have promised to take specific steps to gather more evidence about student learning, to use that evidence to improve instruction, and to give the public more information about the quality of learning on their campuses.”
One of the primary aims of the alliance is that the information that is gathered could be used to develop and share “best practices” across institutions, use the assessment results to guide curriculum development, and report the finding about student learning to the wider public. Many schools already gather information about student learning, but they may not use the assessment results systematically to drive curriculum development.
I wonder what changes we might see throughout higher education if assessment was done and reported in a systematic way across all disciplines and colleges. Could more faculty see specifically how their discipline piece fits into the greater academic puzzle? Would students notice a difference in the way classes and departments built connections to strengthen ties across the entire curriculum?
Some of the negative comments on the Chronicle site indicate that some faculty think this pledge is all “smoke and mirrors” and that the implementation reality might be more work for faculty if they are required to build and use assessment in there classes. Some also argue that they think it is unlikely that the results will lead to any real educational changes on campus.
However, other faculty comments demonstrate that some faculty are excited to participate in this alliance, see the results, and work towards implementing positive changes on campus..
Reading the comments made me wonder, how can assessment (by this I mean a systematic approach to make sure that we are really teaching what we think we are and that students are really learning what we want them to) be completed so that it doesn’t feel like a burden for faculty? How can best practices be identified that are applicable across disciplines and across campuses. How do we keep the focus on creating positive changes to ultimately improve student learning in the classroom?
Over the next few years, it will be fascinating to watch as alliance member schools complete and share their assessments and implement curricular changes to improve student learning.