Tuesday, June 04, 2013

What's "Meant" Prior to "Assesment"?

I'm part of a "faculty team" that is working on assessment of a new general education requirement in ethics education.

In principle, I'm not opposed to there being an additional layer of accountability when it comes to course content and teaching effectiveness. I could imagine assessment procedures which could be used to hold faculty accountable against those hobgoblins that threaten higher education--grade inflation, the pedagogy of rote learning, deadbeat professors, arbitrary grading. And I can imagine procedures which faculty could use to gather evidence to make demands against administrators--for smaller class sizes, for  highly qualified teachers, for professional development and other kinds of support to improve classroom teaching.

But from what I can tell, the game of assessment involves developing a show that provides cover on all sides. One goal is to make it as simple as possible for faculty to perform, but the results are so shaky and obscure that the results could never be used to support demands. It neither requires nor builds respect between administrators and faculty.

Here is a snippet of conversation from my meeting yesterday--6 excellent professors in the room with the director of assessment.

Professor: How were the members of the assessment team chosen?

A. Director: We try to pick professors who are credentialed and qualified in the assessment target.

[My silent thought]: As opposed to those professors who are teaching courses for which they are not credentialed or qualified? Are only some of us who are teaching ethics courses qualified?

A. Director: Of course, some of the people we ask are unable to participate because they are engaged in research or other important projects.

Me, out loud now: Oh yes, I've heard of those people who do research, but none of us here do research or have other important projects going on. No, not us. Our lives are practically empty.

Here's a nice piece on the failed logic of assessment. By a philosopher, of course.

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