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Goal of assessment team is to enhance student learning

Thumb through just about any college's viewbook and you'll notice an emphasis on classroom teaching and one-on-one interaction with professors.

But what's marketing and what's reality? How does a university demonstrate that its environment actually fosters student learning and development? For example, if a goal of Miami capstone courses is to enhance critical thinking, how does one measure whether that aim is being achieved?

Once effective measures of student outcomes are implemented, how can faculty use the data to reshape courses and curricula to further enhance student learning?

Miami's Assessment Task Force has tackled just those issues.

“It's all about the student,” says Jerry Stonewater, chair of the task force and university director of liberal education and assessment. “The point is to engage faculty in 'closing the loop,' that is, using our assessment information to revise courses and curricula to further enhance students' learning. We're not doing this because of outside pressure. We're doing this as a way of improving what we here at Miami already do pretty well.”

Most universities are involved with assessment, but often the activities amount to mere report writing, said Stonewater. The goal at Miami is to put together a process that makes assessment a tool for improvement.

In addition to meeting 16 times this past year, task force members participated in an all-day assessment workshop and consulted with outside assessment experts.

The report calls for gathering information about students' learning and development that can be useful in continuously revising and modifying the curriculum and cocurriculum. Assessment is to be a collaborative process between the academic and student affairs divisions.

Recommendations for structuring the process include:

• Assessment is a means to improving student learning.

• Assessment is a cyclical process.

• Assessment is to include multiple measures, including faculty and staff analysis, student input and measures that directly assess student learning and development outcomes.

• Assessment activities are to focus on three levels - global curricular and cocurricular projects (those not tied to individual courses, majors or programs), departmental student learning outcomes and individual course or program student learning outcomes.

• Assessment activities are to focus on learning and development, not teaching.

• Assessment activities should be built on best practices in assessment that engage faculty and staff. The administrative structure should encourage, not mandate, involvement.

• The assessment process should be continuously monitored.

• Administration of assessment is a joint responsibility of the provost and the vice president for student affairs with implementation assigned to the University Assessment Team. A University Assessment Council will provide oversight.

The University Assessment Team for 2004-05 will include Stonewater; Andrea Bakker, a graduate student in psychology; Dennis Roberts, associate vice president of student affairs, Denise Krallman, assistant director of institutional research; Rob Abowitz, associate director of residence life; and Beverley Taylor, physics.

The 11-member task force, formed in spring of 2003, has issued a 23-page report, which is posted under “reports” on the provost's Web site,

Date Published: 10/28/2004
Volume: 24   Number: 13


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