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assessment – The Salt-Box http://www.jbj.wordherders.net "A man needn't go far to find a subject, if he's ready with his salt-box."--Uncle Pumblechook Thu, 09 May 2013 17:06:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.1 Learning from our public schools: What matters in evaluations http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/03/29/learning-from-our-public-schools-what-matters-in-evaluations/ http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/03/29/learning-from-our-public-schools-what-matters-in-evaluations/#respond Mon, 30 Mar 2009 03:14:01 +0000 http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/03/29/learning-from-our-public-schools-what-matters-in-evaluations/ Continue reading ]]> So, this weekend we received a document with two forms: the teacher of the year nomination and a parent survey, largely about satisfaction with the school.  We’re pretty happy with the school, and very happy with the teacher, so no worries there.  (Readers with long memories will recall that I think the district . . . makes poor decisions, but we like our kid’s school.)

The parent survey is labeled “Holmes Brand Survey,” and, after a demographic question about grade-level, the first two questions are . . . wait for it . . . these:

Holmes School focuses on

  1. Leadership
  2. Higher Order Thinking Skills
  3. Science and technology
  4. Global Community

Holmes School’s (motto/slogan/tagline) is:

  1. Raising Readers!
  2. A formula for success!
  3. Launching Leaders!
  4. Scholars at Work!

(The answers, for the curious, are “Science and technology” and “A formula for success,” respectively.  And, yes, the fact that the correct answers have lower-case words is reproduced faithfully from the handout, as if it’s a tell.)

After these critical questions come more usual questions about whether the child’s being challenged, etc.

I hear the Connecticut State University system is redesigning and standardizing our student evaluations–I think we should look to the public schools!  Start all student evaluations (sorry, student opinion surveys [!]) by asking them to correctly identify the motto of the system and of their particular university.*  Because that’s what matters in education: maintaining your brand.

</sarcasm>

*Every single day it amuses me a little that my school’s slogan/motto/tagline (“Start with a dream. Finish with a future.”) is basically indistinguishable from my father’s community college’s (“From here, go anywhere.”).  I’m *very* easily amused.

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What’s an assignment for? http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2007/06/25/whats-an-assignment-for/ http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2007/06/25/whats-an-assignment-for/#respond Mon, 25 Jun 2007 19:35:28 +0000 assessmentassignmentshigher educationliteratureteachingwriting http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2007/06/25/whats-an-assignment-for/ Continue reading ]]> This year I’ve been experimenting with a variety of digital replacements for my conventional “3 explication papers + one short paper + one medium-length paper” assignment set; for the purposes of this experiment, I’m not requiring formal papers at all.  This has had some hits and misses, and I’m looking forward to ending this experiment soon and moving back to a mix of born-digital and conventional assignments.

One student this summer took a look at the assignments and bolted, but not before sending me an e-mail asking “What ever happened to discussing works in class and then writing papers about them?”  I’ve gotten similar questions from some colleagues and friends.

My first answer is that nothing’s happened to them–there are many such courses on offer in our department.  But my real answer is to turn the question back on itself: Is the point of a literature class “learning how to write papers,” or is it “learning about literature” and “learning to write”?  In other words, I don’t think that the learning outcome of English classes ought to be, “learn how to write critical analysis papers at X pages in length.”  Instead, people assign papers because they think that the sustained work of writing a paper might facilitate other learning goals.  But papers are, or ought to be, just a means to an end.  Certainly they’re a means we’re comfortable with–but there’s nothing magical about them.

Speaking for myself, this  has been a real benefit of working on assessment over the past year.  In the past, when pulling a syllabus together, I would start from the probable due dates of papers, and work backward from that. “It’s an English class, so there should be papers.”  (Note: I still think that “It’s an English class, so there should be *writing* of many forms.”)  I’m trying to get better at fitting assignments to the learning outcomes for a particular class.  Thinking more seriously about why I’m choosing assignment X over assignment Y–and what the tradeoffs are for each option as the class tries to achieve certain outcomes–has helped the design of my classes significantly.

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Assessment & Accountability http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2007/06/22/assessment-accountability/ http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2007/06/22/assessment-accountability/#respond Fri, 22 Jun 2007 11:57:31 +0000 accountabilityassessmenthigher education http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2007/06/22/assessment-accountability/ Continue reading ]]> Over at Academic Commons, my first post is up: It’s about the so-called Voluntary System of Accountability being promulgated by the American Association of State Colleges & Universities (AASCU) and the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges (NASULGC) in response to the Spellings Commission.

Inasmuch as the VSA program relies on standardized testing to assess general education / liberal arts outcomes, I have misgivings about its utility.  And since it’s trying to capture “value-added” education, the problem of student motivation seems insoluble: The VSA methodology suggests testing random samples of first-year and senior students.  But, almost by definition, the assessment can’t be part of the student’s grade for the class.  Why any senior would take this seriously is beyond me.

Having said that, I’m probably a little bit more sanguine about the public reporting of assessment data than some colleagues.  On the one hand, I’ll admit that too much federal control of this would be disastrous; on the other hand, I do think that colleges have been so high-handed about the sanctity of their mission, and so blithely confident in the effectiveness of their methods, that unconventional methods are called for.

Anyway, read the whole thing there.

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