Teaching for Equity: Course Learning Outcomes Review

Thursday, November 19, 2020

A Message from Wendi Dew, Assistant Vice President, Teaching and Learning and Isis Artze-Vega, Vice President, Academic Affairs

This series has already highlighted the Learning Outcomes Assessment model given its explicit grounding in equity-mindedness. Now that our faculty have begun engaging more deeply in this work, we focus this edition on what they have experienced and learned, and on varied ways for others to connect to these efforts.

As Montenegro and Janowski (2020) have written, “at its core, equitable assessment calls for those who lead and participate in assessment activities to pay attention and be conscious of how assessment can either feed into cycles that perpetuate inequities or can serve to bring more equity into higher education” (p. 9). They add that a key principle of equitable assessment is that equity must be embedded in all things assessment. In the case of our learning outcomes model, the focus on course-level assessment necessitates that faculty begin by reviewing and looking critically at a foundational aspect of assessment, course learning outcomes within the collegewide course outlines.

While engaging in their review, many faculty and deans have enrolled in LOBP 4242 Equity-minded Assessment: Writing Equity-minded Learning Outcomes. Participants in the course like Dan Mullins, professor, mathematics, call attention to the value of collaboration in refining their course learning outcomes: “It is really good to bounce ideas off of colleagues and challenge each other to make it more clear.” Courtney Gegenheimer, professor, mathematics, also emphasized the collaborative approach saying, “I was surprised a lot on how much I didn’t immediately catch until people started breaking it down.”

Meanwhile, Kristin Abel, professor, theater technology, and faculty fellow for data and assessment, points out some of the ways course learning outcomes are already becoming more equitable: “Faculty who have taken the LOBP 4242 course immediately interrogate the outcome for measurability and challenge qualifier words (such as appropriate, effective, standard) for clear definition. They are less likely to let phrasing that implies the presence of hidden expectations to remain in the outcome.” Similarly, Marci Dial, professor, nursing, noticed “many times the influence of the instructors’ practice background can cause inequity within the discipline.”

Faculty are also expressing their appreciation for the built-in flexibility and support. In fact, the model is supported by eight faculty fellows for data and assessment, 10 faculty developers/instructional designers (FDs/IDs) and the campus directors of faculty and instructional development. Together with faculty leads in each discipline or program, they have formed Assessment Leadership Teams (ALTs). There are currently seven Gen Ed ALTs (collaborating within more than 30 course-specific subgroups) and 40 CTE ALTs. Another 10 ALTs are already forming to begin the assessment cycle this spring. Each team determines which of the assessment cycle timelines best fits their circumstances, and throughout the cycle, there are faculty development opportunities that align with the pacing.

In addition to the faculty fellows, FDs/IDs and the Faculty Development course offerings, the model is supported by the Assessment Coordinating Committee (ACC) with two faculty co-chairs, Chip Turner, faculty, New Student Experience, representing General Education and Lisa Macon, professor, software development, representing Career and Technical Education. Faculty who are looking for support and differentiated flexibility are encouraged to communicate within the ALT and adjust plans suited to the uniqueness of their degree or discipline.

About 150 other faculty and deans have completed the Writing Equity-minded Learning Outcomes course, and there will be more course offerings in the spring. In the meantime, the next course, PRFC 1151 Reading Circle: Equity-minded assessment introduction to “A New Decade” is available. Participants will reflect on equity-minded assessment practices through exploration of culturally responsive, socially just, and critical assessment concepts as described in the National Institute of Learning Outcomes Assessment’s (NILOA) paper, “A new decade for assessment: Embedding equity into assessment praxis.” Also in the spring, as faculty partner to design assessment methods and criteria, there will be opportunities to enroll in Equity-minded Assessment: Transparent Assessment, another offering in the Equity-minded Practice Series.

Laura Magness, professor, psychology, who also serves as one of the faculty fellows for data and assessment, reminds us that equitable learning outcomes are integral to our ability to realize what is arguably the biggest of our big ideas: “The collaboration both within and across disciplines for learning outcomes assessment that I have seen since beginning this work is the exact reason I love Valencia. We keep student learning at the heart of everything we do and see our colleagues as resources to help us continue to improve. We may not know yet exactly how to create the optimal learning environment for all students, but I see this work as an opportunity to continually identify and remove barriers for our students to truly ensure ‘anyone can learn anything under the right conditions.’”

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