By: Dr. Christina Dryden, Director of Assessment
Teamwork, professional development, assessment. What links these concepts? The APUS assessment team recently attended the Association for the Assessment of Learning in Higher Education (AALHE) Annual Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. Participating in this event as a group allowed us to build and enhance team connections and share daily feedback on new ideas, alternate processes and innovative methods and how we might apply those learnings to our ongoing initiatives at APUS. With our assessment initiatives in mind (e.g., rubric integration into our classrooms using iRubric, rebuilding and reshaping the university assessment committee, continuous improvement through triennial program reviews, and several others) we went forth to attend the daily sessions.
So, what were our standout takeaways? The opening speaker, Dr. Randy Bass – vice provost for education and professor of english at Georgetown University — discussed how the higher education ecosystem has experienced “punctuated equilibrium” much like biological evolution on a broader scale. Dr. Bass suggested that current events, i.e. technology, governmental influence, and declining college enrollments, indicate that we are figuratively in the midst of an academic punctuation mark.
So, where does the field of assessment fit into this dynamic higher education landscape? And within APUS? Without a clearer understanding of what we are teaching our students, and what they are learning, higher education institutions will be unable to learn, grow and evolve to adapt our programs and institutions to this new, ever-changing landscape. Now is the time for innovation and institutional change, and assessment should be at the forefront of these efforts.
Keynote speaker Dr. José Antonio Bowen, president of Goucher College, encouraged attendees to find additional ways to connect with our students and create the best environment that represents our university mission. Higher education assessment needs to support approaches to find program strengths, opportunities for improvement, alignment to strategic plans, and resources to implement actions. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all model, so Dr. Bowen inspired us all to seek our own path to link assessment, student learning, and university missions.
Other sessions addressed topics like co-curriculum assessment, creating effective program review processes and procedures, utilizing institutional assessment practices, crafting quality rubrics, and fostering the role of general education assessment, among many others. The discussion and interaction about assessment processes and the future of the field of assessment with many traditional and online schools was productive and rewarding. One conference session helped reveal ways our university assessment committee can be more integrated into the various assessment processes at the university. Sessions about institutional and program assessment affirmed the robustness of our program review process, while suggesting other ways to enhance it.
As a team, we brainstormed about what we heard and how these new or slightly improved ideas might shape our assessment activities. This interaction validated that APUS continually enhances its educational offerings based on findings from its assessment processes. These enhancements range from minor course changes to substantive curricular revisions always through the lens of what will best serve the student and our university mission. As to the challenge posed by Dr. Bowen, APUS is well along the path to most effectively link mission and student learning assessment.
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