Proclaiming and Sustaining Excellence: Assessment
as a Faculty Role. ERIC Digest.
by Schilling, Karen Maitland - Schilling, Karl L.
We are now over 10 years into the most recent wave of interest in assessment
in higher education. In many states, publicly supported institutions of
higher education have developed assessment programs in response to mandates
from coordinating boards. All the regional accrediting associations articulate
expectations for assessment, and attention to assessment has moved beyond
publicly supported institutions into the private sector. National surveys
of leaders in higher education suggest that assessment has been institutionalized
quite broadly in American higher education.
These same surveys, however, suggest that campus leaders remain unconvinced
about the real benefits of externally mandated assessment and fear misuse
of its results. Moreover, although campuses nationwide (with a few notable
exceptions) have responded to expectations for the development of assessment
programs, faculty have not yet in any substantial numbers recognized and
embraced local assessment efforts.
"Proclaiming and Sustaining Excellence: Assessment as a Faculty Role"
explores the various sources of faculty's resistance to assessment and
suggests ways to approach assessment that are more congenial to the traditional
faculty role. In addressing administrators and faculty, the authors identify
major conceptual, methodological, and policy advances over the past decade
that may facilitate the faculty's greater engagement with assessment. Administrators
are provided with useful frameworks for understanding the faculty's resistance
and suggestions for approaches to assessment that respond to these sources
of resistance. Faculty are provided with ways of thinking about assessment
that comport more naturally with their traditional understandings of the
faculty role in the academy.
WHAT ADVANCES IN ASSESSMENT MAKE IT MORE
CONGENIAL TO FACULTY?
Eight major shifts have occurred in the broad frameworks that have informed
assessment practice: (1) focusing on the development of talent rather than
simply displaying resources; (2) moving away from assuring minimal competency;
(3) broadening the focus beyond linear, goal-centered approaches; (4) highlighting
epistemological differences among the disciplines; (5) redirecting the
focus to students and their learning processes; (6) making direct ties
to teaching practice; (7) thinking of improvement as a continuing agenda;
and (8) attending to the politics underlying judgments of effectiveness.
Each of these broad theoretical shifts has shaped developing assessment
practice to make it more congenial to faculty interests and dispositions.
Five broad changes in practice or assessment methods are also discussed:
(1) fitting measures to a local context; (2) seeking convergence of multiple
measures; (3) involving new disciplinary perspectives; (4) valuing authenticity;
and (5) distinguishing between measurement and judgment.
Changing policies governing assessment include (1) changing notions
of accountability; (2) the move to performance indicators; (3) barriers
to the institutionalization of assessment; (4) false starts that incur
hostility from the faculty; and (5) significant inroads on campuses toward
the acceptance of assessment.
HOW HAVE DIFFERENT INSTITUTIONS APPROACHED ASSESSMENT?
Practices at several institutions have been cited repeatedly in the
literature on assessment over the past two decades. Specific institutional
contexts and cultures have enabled or fostered the development of very
different approaches to assessment at each institution. Six different institutional
approaches are described: (1) assessment as part of an institution's fabric;
(2) assessment as related to accountability; (3) assessment as an administrative
service; (4) assessment as scholarship; (5) assessment as an opportunity
for teaching; and (6) assessment as an add-on responsibility. Campuses
where assessment falls into one of these categories are discussed in terms
of the role faculty play in assessment.
HOW CAN ASSESSMENT BE VIEWED AS A FACULTY ROLE?
Six conditions are necessary if faculty are to view assessment as an
integral part of their role:
1.Assessment must be embedded in a fiscal and policy context that supports
innovation under administrative leadership providing vision and support.
2.Assessment must be grounded in significant questions that faculty
3.Assessment must rely on evidence and forms of judgment that disciplinary
specialists find credible.
4.Assessment must be rooted in a language and metaphors appropriate
to the context.
5.Assessment must be identified as a stimulus to reflective practice.
6.Assessment must accommodate the nature of faculty life in the academy.
"Proclaiming and Sustaining Excellence" concludes by offering a set
of principles for developing effective assessment programs that will engage
faculty in meaningful assessment.
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This ERIC digest is based on a full-length report in the ASHE-ERIC Higher
Education Report series Volume 26, Number 3, "Proclaiming and Sustaining
Excellence: Assessment as a Faculty Role" by Karen Maitland Schilling and
Karl L. Schilling. This report was prepared by the ERIC Clearinghouse on
Higher Education in cooperation with the Association for the Study of Higher
Education and published by the Graduate School of Education and Human Development
at the George Washington University.