Assessment

Institute for the Development of Excellence in Assessment Leadership

Date: 
Tue, 08/06/2013 to Fri, 08/09/2013

Location

Baltimore, Maryland
United States

Study tracks European tracking of university students

Smart Title: 

Universities and governments on the continent exhibit many of the same data limitations as U.S. colleges in gauging student outcomes, study shows.

International educators debate mass vs. elite higher education

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International educators at a meeting of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development put a new twist on an old debate, prodded by New York University's provocative president.

Pulse podcast examines Blackboard Analytics for Learn

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This month's edition of The Pulse podcast features a conversation with Mark Max, vice president of Blackboard Analytics for Learn.

Data show key role for community colleges in 4-year degree production

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Study shows that 45 percent of bachelor's degree recipients studied at two-year institutions first -- as many as three-quarters in some states.

Why assessment isn't about certainty (essay)

When I first floated the idea of writing a weekly column from my perch as director of institutional research and assessment at my college, everyone in the dean’s office seemed to be on board.  But when I proposed calling it “Delicious Ambiguity,” I got more than a few funny looks.  
 
Although these looks could have been a mere byproduct of the low-grade bewilderment that I normally inspire, let’s just say for the sake of argument that they were largely triggered by the apparent paradox of a column written by the measurement guy that seems to advocate winging it. But strange as it may seem, I think the phrase “Delicious Ambiguity” embodies the real purpose of Institutional Research and Assessment. Let me explain why.
 
This particular phrase is part of a longer quote from Gilda Radner – a brilliant improvisational comedian and one of the early stars of “Saturday Night Live.” The line goes like this:
 
“Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”
 
For those of you who chose a career in academia specifically to reduce ambiguity – to use scholarly research methods to discover truths and uncover new knowledge -- this statement probably inspires a measure of discomfort.  And there is a part of me that admittedly finds some solace in the task of isolating statistically significant “truths.”  I suppose I could have decided to name my column “Bland Certainty,” but – in addition to single-handedly squelching reader interest – such a title would suggest that my only role is to provide final answers – nuggets of fact that function like the period at the end of a sentence.
 
Radner’s view of life is even more intriguing because she wrote this sentence as her body succumbed to cancer.  For me, her words exemplify intentional – if not stubborn – optimism in the face of darkly discouraging odds. I have seen this trait repeatedly demonstrated in many of the faculty and staff members I know over the last several years as you have committed yourself to helping a particular student even as that student seems entirely uninterested in  learning.
 
Some have asserted that a college education is a black box; some good can happen, some good does happen – we just don’t know how it happens. On the contrary, we actually know a lot about how student learning and development happens – it’s just that student learning doesn’t work like an assembly line.  
 
Instead, student learning is like a budding organism that depends on the conduciveness of its environment; a condition that emerges through the interaction between the learner and the learning context.  And because both of these factors perpetually influence each other, we are most successful in our work to the degree that we know which educational ingredients to introduce, how to introduce them, and when to stir them into the mix.  The exact sequence of the student learning process is, by its very nature, ambiguous because it is unique to each individual learner.
 
In my mind, the act of educating is deeply satisfying precisely because of its unpredictability.  Knowing that we can make a profound difference in a young person’s life – a difference that will ripple forward and touch the lives of many more long after a student graduates – has driven many of us to extraordinary effort and sacrifice even as the ultimate outcome remains admittedly unknown.  What’s more, we look forward to that moment when our perseverance suddenly sparks a flicker of unexpected light that we know increases the likelihood – no matter how small – that this person will blossom into the lifelong student we believe they can be.
 
The purpose of collecting educational data should be to propel us – the teacher and the student – through this unpredictability, to help us navigate the uncertainty that comes with a process that is so utterly dependent upon the perpetually reconstituted synergy between teacher and student. The primary role of institutional research and assessment is to help us figure out the very best ways to cultivate – and in just the right ways – manipulate this process.  
 
The evidence of our success isn’t a result at the end of this process.  The evidence of our success is the process.  And pooling our collective expertise, if we focus on cultivating the quality, depth, and inclusiveness of that process, it isn’t outlandish at all to believe that our efforts can put our students on a path that someday just might change the world.
 
To me, this is delicious ambiguity.

Mark Salisbury is director of institutional research and assessment at Augustana College, in Illinois. This essay is adapted from the first post on his new blog.

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Program Assessment Workshop

Date: 
Sat, 10/27/2012

Location

Embassy Suites Hotel San Diego Bay - Downtown 601 Pacific Highway
92101-5914 San Diego, California
United States

Program Assessment Workshop

Date: 
Sat, 09/22/2012

Location

Tod Wehr Conference Center, Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) 1025 North Broadway
53202 Milwaukee, Wisconsin
United States

WGU pushes transfer students to graduate community college first

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Western Governors U. pushes graduation even before students enroll by offering financial perks for associate degree holders and, at WGU Texas, through partnerships with community colleges.

General Education and Assessment: A Sea Change in Student Learning

Date: 
Thu, 02/28/2013 to Sat, 03/02/2013

Location

Boston, Massachusetts
United States

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