Embedded Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes in Higher Education

September 21, 2019 0 By Ronny Jaskolski


A few decades ago the most common question about assessment was When will it go away We now know that the answer is not in your lifetime the political economic and bureaucratic forces that demand accountability from educational institutions have only gained power over the past few decades Accrediting bodies now require schools to present more not less evidence of student learning The rising cost of higher education and the rapidly evolving job market are just two factors that inspire greater emphasis on assessment with the theory that citizens and corporations alike need assurances that schools are doing what they say they’re doing DMACC is fortunate enough to be accredited by two groups the Higher Learning Commission and the Department of Education and Of course our career advantage program is accredited by the National Alliance for concurrent enrollment partnerships, or NACEP Ongoing assessment is an expectation of these accrediting bodies To return to our opening question as long as accreditors have the power to ensure that our classes count as college credit Assessment will not go away Of course assessment has always been a part of education Consider two related meanings the common noun assessment and assessment with a capital A assessment with a lowercase a is in actuality Indistinguishable from teaching we assess our students all the time Formative and summative assessment are the two most commonly used terms in classroom assessment And we can use them to assess our students directly giving them feedback and evaluation Without reporting data to anyone else Socrates assessed his students’ philosophical ideas in the flow of dialogue No external agency was present to collect and report to the authorities Socrates assessed, but without capital a Assessment assessment with the capital a is that process of providing evidence of student learning to an external authority sometimes administrators within an institution But often accrediting bodies and governments what we’re really talking about is three different categories of assessment Internal assessment which goes on in the classroom External assessment and that is data reported to authorities and Embedded assessment, which is really a combination of the two internal assessment is like breathing for teachers We provide feedback. We shape our students progress in the classroom we review repeat. We reach out We assess our students on exercises and assignments big and small we give grades Some could argue it should end there We know however that institutions and governments think differently about this External assessment really started in the early 20th century with the rise of accrediting bodies and state and national standardized exams This is the era of the acronym GRE SAT ACT LSAT MCAT Iowa test of Basic Skills or ITBS critics of these groups refer to their exams as dropped from the sky? assessments that’s because the content of these exams did not arise from work in the classroom an External Authority sets the standards and imposes requirements from on high without a real connection to those on the ground Quite a few researchers have questioned the validity of this process Many of the arguments focus on the inability of standardized test scores for example the SAT to predict future performance In college others argue that standardized exams can only measure lower-level skills and fail at determining whether students can use knowledge in context for applied purposes or in service of real-world critical thinking. None other than the Educational Testing Service ETS (another acronym) endorsed this argument way back in 1999 in an ETS lecture James Pellegrino distinguished professor of cognitive psychology and education of the University of Illinois Argued that the time had come to rethink standardized assessments in 21st century learning environments he wrote decontextualized drop in from the sky assessments consisting of isolated tasks and performances will have zero validity as indicators of educational attainments in 2007 the American Association of colleges and universities Added that standardized tests that stand outside the regular curriculum are at best a weak prompt to needed improvement the 2013 Gordon Commission on the future of assessment and education argues That 21st century standards including problem solving creativity and critical thinking require new forms of assessment that moved beyond the memorization of isolated facts and Decontextualized skills as Conley in Hammond write in Creating systems of assessment for deeper learning multiple choice and closed-ended items measure recall and recognition But do not measure higher-level thinking skills or the ability to apply them Darling-Hammond in 2013 argue that cognitive demand is severely constrained by the extent of multiple-choice questions Which were rarely able to assess these higher order skills the tragedy here Is that we already know how to assess higher order skills and to assign higher-order? Tasks as part of internal assessment this leads us to our third category embedded assessment Which is a method used to provide evidence of student learning at the state? regional and national level without the imposition of an external exam Instead of using a standardized assessment that comes from on high instructors identify assignments, they’re already using that can serve as representations of complex learning outcomes the process often involves aligning classroom curriculum with state or national standards but instructors are asked to use assignments that are already a part of their classes as Richard Shavelson professor of psychology at Stanford right so the goal is to assess broad cognitive abilities embedded in meaningful whole stick complex tasks Embedded assessment is not seen as something separate from the normal teaching and learning process Arkansas Tech University’s Center for Excellence in teaching and learning believes that embedded assessment takes advantage of class level Motivation to capture program level data and that it assesses What is actually taught in a programs courses not only bears and Manning argue that given immense time? commitment assessment can create for faculty Leaders of assessment activities may want to build assessment activities into what the educators are already doing furthermore a more deliberate use of existing measures of student success can provide incremental evidence of student learning and move us toward Accountability the most significant advantage of embedded assessment has to do with quality and depth of learning this assessment Continuum is from Conley and Darling-Hammond’s 2013 article creating systems of assessment for deeper learning as you can see according to their formulation Standardized tests represent the most narrow Assessments on the continuum starting on the left in order to engage students in deep learning the projects need to be complex need to take more time and To be evaluated by human graders typically using rubrics in higher education and vetted assessment has been the preferred approach toward the assessment of college-wide Outcomes which are learning objectives such as critical thinking that apply to all students regardless of degree or program according to the National Institute for learning outcomes assessment 84% of higher education institutions have created common learning outcomes for all students and Four and ten schools have aligned their academic programs with these learning outcomes The national institute for learning outcomes assessment is set to release a new report in January of 2018 and expects these numbers to increase DMACC has created common learning outcomes and is in the process of aligning them with all courses More on this in a minute one interesting trend is found in the multi-state collaborative to advance learning outcomes assessment Which is evaluating student work from seventy eight colleges including twenty eight two year schools across 13 States using common learning objectives and rubrics from the American Association of colleges and universities and embedded assessment in 2015 a faculty-led group at DMACC created a set of college-wide outcomes called the DMACC essential learning outcomes And in 2017 they officially replace the college’s general education competencies These outcomes include familiar broad academic goals such as critical thinking problem-solving communication and quantitative literacy Part of our duty for external assessment is to provide evidence of student learning as it pertains to these outcomes Embedded assessment will be our preferred method for doing this we will be looking for existing assignments that promote deep learning We believe this already exists in our classrooms. We just need to find ways to collect and report it We are in the process of aligning these college-wide outcomes with our individual courses, then starting in the fall of 2018 the assessment commission will initiate a pilot program focused on one of these essential learning outcomes in The next video I will discuss how embedded assessment for college white outcomes works on the ground