By Nichole Jackson, Assistant Director, Learning Assessment
Ask any professor or professional in higher education what they want students to know and somewhere in their answer is usually a nod to critical thinking. Ask them how the students know they are thinking critically and the answers are not so clear.
Sometimes it is easier to tell the story like an archaeologist, methodologically retrieving evidence within a cultural context. If Valencia is the cultural context, Assessment Day is when faculty come to campus to learn from the evidence they have collected during the year — artifacts of student learning.
Assessment Day has been held annually at Valencia since 2011, spanning two days when faculty gather in discipline groups to share methodologies and discuss the stories their artifacts tell. The value of practicing assessment of student learning outcomes was evident at this year’s event on Thursday, May 7 and Friday, May 8, 2015.
Faculty members reflected on the meaningful conversations they have had over the past several years. Wendy Givoglu, dean of arts and entertainment, described her experience while faculty shared their work. “It became evident to me, as I listened to the emerging themes of our arts and entertainment assessment discussions this year, that in our Program Learning Outcomes Assessment journey, we have now arrived at what I call ‘Assessment Day 5.0,’ she said. “We started in our first iteration with simply writing outcomes that we hoped would tell us what our students would be able to do when they left our programs. Over the past few years, we have refined and assessed most of our outcomes. This year, we entered into deeper discussions about really knowing who our students are as artists and learners.”
Faculty collegewide appreciated the support of their deans; in the Post-Assessment Day survey 68 percent of the 64 respondents said their dean attended their Assessment Day gathering.
The student learning artifacts are the evidence faculty hold in order to work together to enhance what their next students will learn. At Assessment Day 2015, the connection between assessment and teaching practices was made across the disciplines. Professor of Speech and President of the Collegewide Faculty Association Suzette Dohany, worked with a team of colleagues interested in asking, “How can we take this to our course level and improve our practices?”
Faculty working efficiently and raising great questions were encouraged by administrators like Lynn Dorn, dean of science, who reminded them, “I see Assessment Day as a day we assess ourselves. With my team, I’m going to ask them to give me some ideas about ways that you can improve yourself. That’s what I would say you should take away from here.”
When other colleges ask how does Valencia sustain a culture of evidence, the answer is first, know the big idea is that assessment is to improve student learning, and then practice it — every year.
If you missed Assessment Day, you will want to follow up with your discipline representatives to find out about the stories the artifacts told and your role in gathering and interpreting the next cycle of evidence. Click here for the Current List of Learning Outcomes Assessment Leaders.
Over the next academic year, Michele Lima, professor of speech, and Shawn Pollgreen, professor of English for Academic Purposes, will be offering two courses for instructors focused on critical thinking, with an emphasis on standards by which we can measure students’ development over time. Look for more information in August on this and other activities planned for the 2015-2016 year in support of learning outcomes assessment across the College.