Having It Both Ways: Ameliorating the Tension Between Accountability and Improvement
Dr. Peter Ewell | President Emeritus | National Center for Higher Education Management Systems
Since its beginnings in the early 1980s, the assessment of student learning has always harbored a contradiction: is its principle purpose to improve teaching and learning or to satisfy the demands of stakeholders outside the academy that desired results are being achieved? This contradiction is inherent and affects virtually every aspect of assessment practice — from the instruments chosen to the way results are displayed and used. It can never be entirely overcome. With judicious leadership and the proper mix of culture and technology, it can be ameliorated.
This plenary first explores the conceptual origins of the tension between accountability and improvement in assessment and attempts to explain why so many institutions get “stuck” with a compliance approach to assessment that isolates itself from instructional reality and alienates many teaching faculty. It then goes on to suggest ways of establishing instructional expectations, creating teaching and learning settings, examining student work, and archiving results that can overcome this compliance culture to yield meaningful and actionable information. “Having it both ways” is assuredly not easy. It can be accomplished so long as institutional assessment efforts are intentional, broadly participatory, and grounded in appropriate organizational and technological infrastructures.
Interested? Visit our Summer Conference website to learn more. With a powerhouse lineup of speakers, it’s the one assessment conference you cannot miss!