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View Diary: Teacher's Lounge: Program Assessment (Part I) (31 comments)

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  •  There are so many facets to this topic (2+ / 0-)
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    docangel, rserven

    it's impossible to find one answer or one solution.

    1.  Student Assessment: What one test will evaluate how graduating students did, when they graduate with a range of degrees from Performance Piano to Chemical Engineering? Ain't none.
    1.  Multi-Section Course Assessment: To roughly paraphrase Steven Colbert, there are many religions that provide many paths to accepting Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior. So how do we assess, for example, writing courses where methodologies range from creative and critical thinking, to reader response, to analytical writing, to...oh, I could go on. I suspect we could establish a performance level to be achieved, and let academic freedom work as a marketplace device to weed out the approaches that don't work.  In Engineering, all students must pass Statics with a specified level of proficiency.  There's a model we could follow.
    1.  Degree Programs: This is the responsibility of senior faculty.  Failure here is right on their heads. What is their program really about?  What is it's intellectual core? Why is this area so interesting to study, and how do we shape a curriculum that presents as comprehensive a study of the area as is possible in x credit hours?   If the faculty is too lazy to engage in this sort of review every 6-10 years, the program is either self-evidently valid (Mechanical Engineering) or not worth funding (think I'm crazy enough to name one here? Hahaha!) (Oh, ok, how about Flat Earth Geology?)
    1.  The College as an Institution:  Here things get so non-linear that a yardstick instrument is laughable. Research and learning are constantly changing the boundaries and shape of knowledge.  The institution should be continuously adapting to new knowledge and reshaping its profile in response to that growth.  A central core is appropriate, even necessary, as every dynamical system has a strange attractor around which its points coalesce.  But non-linearity also acknowledges that the field as a whole will be protean in its total configuration.  So, is the institution growing while maintaining its core, or is it just being repetitive?  That's the best guideline I can think of for assessing an institution.  Yes, that's a high degree of generality, but it's not amorphous. There is the core (strange attractor) to be confirmed, and growth (protean boundary conditions) to be verified.

    I'm getting dizzy--time for food before the hypoglycemia kicks in.  Hope I added something here.

    Best,  WT  

    Abigail, I'm sure if there is something out there, looking down on us from somewhere else in the Universe, they're wise enough to stay away from us. --Grissom

    by world traveler on Sat Nov 11, 2006 at 10:49:14 AM PST

    •  You certainly have added a lot. :-) (1+ / 0-)
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      world traveler

      Do you mind if I share #3 with some of my colleagues?  Even my Chair asked who's going to examine the Business Core courses.  I explained that the people who teach them would be a good place to start.  I certainly shouldn't be assessing Intro to Business.  I should be assessing the programming courses that I am involved with.

      Teacher's Lounge opens each Saturday, sometime between 10am and 12 noon EST

      by rserven on Sat Nov 11, 2006 at 11:15:33 AM PST

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      •  Be my guest (1+ / 0-)
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        Use any of it as you will.

        My thinking behind #3 was this: these people found something in this field that was compelling to them personally.  One does not get a terminal degree in a subject, and then go through the hell of promo and tenure review, because of the money, status, honor.
        [insert sardonic comment here.]

        We go into our field because it was something we fell in love with, or found overwhelmingly curious, or saw in it a wonderful adventure to go on.  Whatever the motivation, it's something we wanted to spend our intellectual life with [at least for a time--we all know about burnout and burnouts, but that may just mean we've accomplished what we set out to do, found what we were looking for, and now want to move along but can't because there's no job market out there for 50+ year-olds (thank you repuglikkklans), and we have obligations we need the paycheck for etc., etc.].

        So, each faculty member needs to answer that question: what was wonderful about this field that made you cast your lot with it.  How can it grow, what can it explore, what will make it compelling to the next generation?  Then, what courses need to be there to prepare that next generation to go on a similar journey?  What courses are also important, to fill in the landscape of adventure?  What courses constitute delightful side-journeys? Which ones lead only to intellectual Hell?

        My metaphors are obvious reflections of my own world view and intellectual life.  Adapt and modify as their way of thinking demands (such a survey and study can only be successful if the language and imagery connects to them).

        To me, the important thing is to phrase the inquiry in terms that connect the faculty personally to their discipline.  As best I can figure, that's the only way to avoid responses that fall into bullshit cliches or educationist jargon.  The responses can always be transliterated into educationeese by the study editor.

        Just my thoughts; there are probably many additional tactics that can be used as well.  Since I know a little about business, but am no expert, my attitude would be to get these people to educate me by telling me stories of the hows and whys of their field.  Scholarly jargon becomes arched and lifeless: no juice in it.  But it's the juice that shapes the program, and that's what I'd want to get at.  I learn more about a country by listening to the people telling me about life there, than reading government statistics and five-year plans. In fact, five-year plans are usually one person's bullshit to satisfy another bullshitting bureaucrat.  Stories tell the truth.

        I'm wandering here, but to a point: one of my favorite authors, Jim Rodgers, built his commodities futures empire, Rodgers Holdings, by getting out on his motorcycle and traveling the roads of the world (literally).  Seeing what was happening on the ground, and listening to the people (someone speaks a little English everywhere today) told him more about which countries to invest in than any Minister of the Treasury or World Bank Report.  In fact, he claims he learns more about the economic health of a country by  talking to black marketeers and brothel madams than government officials! In my experience, I totally believe him.

        So I recommend talking to the people more than the bosses, who have their own personal agenda to sell you. The people talk about real life, excellently.

        After lunch I took a nap.  Now I can't shut up.  Sorry.

        Abigail, I'm sure if there is something out there, looking down on us from somewhere else in the Universe, they're wise enough to stay away from us. --Grissom

        by world traveler on Sat Nov 11, 2006 at 03:22:13 PM PST

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