Measuring student learning is one of instructor’s most difficult tasks. Assessment is also a difficult task for institutions.
In the article Measuring Student Learning, Many Tools, David Glenn, discusses the issue as an institutional issue and points out that a group of institutions have combined to study different methods of assessment. The group, headed by Charles Blaich, director of Wabash College’s Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts, seeks to collect data to determine effectiveness. Cr. Blaich encourages universities to use a variety of tools, as appropriate for the school, to collect data. He also encourages universities to use data they already collect, when possible.
I’ve used a variety of assessment methods in my classes: exams, scoring rubrics, ePortfolios using Mahara (an open source program) and now possibly Taskstream and computer based testing (such as Criterion, a writing program). I have tried mind mapping, graphic organizers, research papers, short papers, multiple quizzes, take home exams, and oral presentations.
The tension is palpable. I can measure whether someone has memorized the content most easily through a test. I can measure critical thinking and ability to apply through a test. However, does that demonstrate learning or deep learning? How does one measure learning (see this website, Approaches to Study: Deep and Surface, for more on the concept of deep learning) ? Measure critical thinking? Measure successful integration of information learned with information previously learned?
So, I muddle along, measuring learning based on how my learning was measured (primarily through multiple-choice, true-false, essay, standardized, nationwide, validated tests-depending on when and what) and I add in what I learn from attending conferences, listening to experts and applying what I’ve learned to my classes in an effort to truly encourage and measure learning. Is it successful? It depends on who you ask.
That’s enough for this post; next post I’ll briefly discuss my foray into ePortfolios, my current preferred assessment method when I have adequate time to process the student information.
As you can see, I will continue to struggle with the “A” word!