Assessment Committee Request

Jen Asimow, friend of the Lounge (and me) and Chair of the Assessment Committee this semester, asked if I would post the following letter. For those who don’t have the full background, I hope to get another post up some time after I’ve finished midterm grading.

Dear Faculty,


It has come to the attention of the Assessment Committee that there are faculty who are disheartened by the way the CCSSE (Community College Survey of Student Engagement) is being administered this spring.  As you all know, we have a long tradition of voluntary assessment practices at HWC, refusing to mandate any form of assessment that comes through our committee.  We continue to honor that practice.


This spring, CCSSE is being administered through the Office of Academic Affairs, under the direction of the Office of Research and Planning, not the Assessment Committee.  A random sample of course sections is chosen by the CCSSE administration in Texas and is sent to the college.  Normally, colleges then require faculty to administer the survey at specific times in specific courses.  Our college is trying to make this scheduling as flexible as possible, allowing faculty to choose the time in their courses that is best for their students and them.  Faculty have been given a fairly wide window to get this done, within the CCSSE requirements.


Understandably, this is frustrating for many of you.  Time is precious and teaching time, even more so.  No, it is not ideal and it is not the way the Assessment Committee has done things in the past.  However, the information they receive from this survey is important as student engagement is directly and indirectly related to learning.  We are hopeful that you can find the time required to honor this request from our administration.  If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me at




Jennifer Asimow, Assessment Committee Chair

On behalf of the Assessment Committee

Call for Assessment Volunteers

Michael Heathfield and the (national award winning) Assessment Committee are looking for help with their efforts to assess student skills in regard to the Gen Ed Objective of “Oral Communication” mastery as measured by the associated General Education learning outcomes. Per Michael:

“Here’s an opportunity to contribute data for something useful, positive, and directly related to improving student learning.”

They need faculty who are already having students do some sort of oral presentation some time between weeks 12 and 16. If you have a class that fits that description, then (unlike in past years where students went and took a test in the lab or something) by volunteering you’d be agreeing to use the committee’s easy to use rubric (in addition to OR instead of your own) to evaluate the student presentations and submit those to the committee. There may be a quick survey for students to take, as well, but I’m not sure about that.

Regardless, you would be volunteering to do an easy (and helpful) bit of bonus data collection that won’t take all that long or be all that difficult to do and will help all of us learn something about where our students are in regard to oral communication skills. That, in turn, will give all of us good information about what we might do in our classes to promote student growth toward this objective.

Imagine that: some data collection that might actually tell us something about student learning and helpfully inform our teaching! Please help if you can.

If you are interested in learning more, contact Michael Heathfield or someone you know on the Assessment Committee (every department has a rep) and find out more. If you are interested in volunteering, go HERE and do it!

Whaddya Know Assessment Committee Podcast (5)

Whaddya Know? is a bi-weekly, featured podcast conversation with the Chair of the HW Assessment Committee highlighting recent assessment activities, results, and consequent recommendations of the college’s hardest working committee. It appears every other Friday afternoon.

Almost. We missed it two weeks ago. And then, this one was delayed for a couple of days. Let’s pretend it’s Friday, shall we? No? Fine. Still, it’s better than late than never!

This week: Assessment Times!

Formative Assessment Explained

This article is as great of an explanation of what Assessment ought to look like and what it is commonly confused with as I have yet run across. Check it:

When teachers are told, inaccurately, that formative assessment is a kind of test, this is akin to telling a would-be surfer that a surfboard is the same as surfing. While a surfboard represents an important ingredient in surfing, it is only that—a part of the surfing process. The entire process involves the surfer’s paddling out to an appropriate offshore location, selecting the right wave, choosing the most propitious moment to catch the chosen wave, standing upright on the surfboard, and staying upright while a curling wave rumbles toward shore. The surfboard is a key component of the surfing process, but it is not the entire process.

Similarly, an assessment is an important part of the formative-assessment process, but it is only that—a part of the formative-assessment process. The entire process involves decisions about when to test and what to test, selection or construction of suitable assessment procedures, judgments about whether assessment-elicited evidence should lead to adjustments, and choices about the nature of any adjustments. Assessments are a key component of the formative-assessment process, but they are not the entire process.

Read the rest. You’ll be smarter when you’re done, and a better educator to boot.

Whaddya Know? Assessment Committee Podcast (3)


Whaddya Know? is a bi-weekly, featured podcast conversation with the Chair of the HW Assessment Committee highlighting recent assessment activities, results, and consequent recommendations of the college’s hardest working committee. It appears every other Friday afternoon.

Today’s topic is Faculty Motivation.

I have much more to say about all this, and probably will in a long rambling rant sometime this weekend or next, but I raise it here because the motivations of the public sector union members have been somewhat on trial this week in the court of public opinion, with all signs pointing to more and increasing scrutiny and criticism of public workers in the near future (read this for a harrowing preview).


Whaddya Know? Assessment Committee Podcast (2)

Whaddya Know? is a regularly featured podcast conversation with the Chair of the HW Assessment Committee highlighting recent assessment activities, results, and consequent recommendations of the college’s hardest working committee. It appears every Friday afternoon (unless there is a blizzard).

Well, let’s try this again, shall we? And this time without the giggling and without the 20 inches of snow. All assessment all the time this week. Please post any questions you have (or would like addressed in future installments.

This week Mike talks about the Quantitative Reasoning report (including a teaser or two), the Lumina Foundation’s National Degree Outcomes Proposal, and a new report from ICCB with some really interesting information about student goals. Enjoy!

Oh, and the themes song is “Journey to the Center of Your Mind” by The Ramones (from Acid Eater).

California’s Early Assessment Program: Remediation Reduction

At least that’s what they’re after according to this article in Education Week:

The Early Assessment Program draws praise for doing something few thought possible: It brought together K-12 and higher education and got them to agree on the knowledge and skills that constitute college-level mastery. They created a test that sends rising high school seniors an early signal about their readiness in mathematics and literacy, and allows those who meet the mark to go right into credit-bearing coursework as college freshmen, skipping remedial classes. To complete the picture, they crafted a suite of courses to bring lagging 12th graders up to college-level snuff and added training for preservice and in-service teachers…

“We’ve gone from a system [of state tests] that looks backward, asking how well we did, to one that looks ahead, asking if we have really gotten students ready for college,” said Douglas McRae, who helped design the state’s tests in the 1990s. “That’s a big mindset shift.”

It’s not all cherries and sunshine, though.

Critics note that a crucial question about the EAP—whether it is a valid measure of college readiness—hasn’t been fully answered. CSU has not yet completed its study of how students fare in credit-bearing work after EAP exemptions from remedial courses. One small study, from Santa Rosa Junior College, did find that students with EAP exemptions had higher grade point averages in their college coursework than those of the college’s general population.

William G. Tierney, a professor at the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education, urged policymakers in a 2008 paper to “suspend the extensive accolades the EAP has gotten based on sketchy evidence” of its success.

It’s an interesting model, though, and Burnham-esque in its ambitions. Definitely worth reading about.

Whaddya Know?: New Assessment Committee Podcast

Whaddya Know? is (going to be) a regularly featured podcast conversation with the Chair of the HW Assessment Committee highlighting recent assessment activities, results, and consequent recommendations of the college’s hardest working committee. It appears every Friday afternoon.

Enjoy the (brief) assessment stylings of Committee Chair Michael Heathfield. If you have any questions that you’d like me to pose to him in future interviews, please post them in the comments.

PS: We’re working on a theme song. Maybe next week!

To FC4, Love District


Going along with the example set by WIKILEAKS, the following information is being leaked through district faculty council. You might want to ask your local administration why they have not relayed it to us.

Julius Nadas,
secretary FC4

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

1. December 13-16, 2010:  College Success Seminar Training is scheduled to take place at District.  The request for College Success to be part of load is under review

2. December 18, 2010:  All grades must be entered into PeopleSoft no later than Saturday at 2:00 p.m.  Faculty who are experiencing issues should contact the CCC Help Desk by email or by phone 2600.  Also, campus Registrars are available to be of assistance.

3. January 3, 2011, additional advisors and tutors will be hired for each college and will be paid for by an ICCB grant.

4. January 6, 2011:  The Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet at Harold Washington College.

5. January 10, 2011:  Spring 2011 semester starts Monday; spring classes begin Tuesday, January 18, 2011.

6. January 2011: The Upgrade to Blackboard 9.0 will be available.

7. February 15, 2011:  Initial deadline date for I.A.I. five-year Course Review process.  College administrators, Department Chairs, and District Academic Affairs need faculty assistance to complete program reviews.

8. The 2010 CCC Credential Guidelines are attached. If you feel you are qualified to teach courses on some other basis you will need to present the relevant documentation to your VP and ask that it be presented to the district office of Academic Affairs.

9. The spring 2010 Syllabi Audit conducted by the Office of Academic Affairs is attached.

10. Please remember to update your syllabi and upload them to Blackboard for spring 2011 classes.  Syllabi are expected to be available to students no later than the first day of classes.

11. The official CCC Syllabus Template is attached.   2011 CCC Syllabi Template

12. A sample CCC Syllabus is attached.   F09-CHLDDV-109-K-Connor

The last Tuesday Teaching Question(s) of 2010 (I think.)

OOPS, this should have gone up at 11:59 last night.  I had it scheduled for 11:59 tonight, giving people only one minute on Tuesday for the Tuesday teaching question.  Sorry for the delay.

The end is here.  The multicolored pen business is booming as we in the education business (ha, according to who?) do our business so we can enjoy a much earned vacation (if such a thing is truly possible).  I figured I’d keep it incredibly practical and low level this week in order to respect the cognitive demands of grading.  Here goes.  The even-numbered questions are slightly meatier than the odd-numbered ones.  In fact, the one that is divisible by 3 and even (i.e. divisible by 6) is likely the meatiest of them all (and my original TTQ idea).

1. Are you procrastinating from grading right now?

11. Do you have a red pen to lend me?

24. Since it’s likely that many students won’t come back to collect their final work from you (assuming it hasn’t happened already)…

a) What do you do with you students’ work?

b) Are you as careful “marking their work up” knowing that they will likely never see it?

40. Do you use a percent based grade weighting scale or points?  Why?

115. Would you be more likely to grade in room 1046 if there was music playing?

Let’s see if we can get more than 2 responses this week.  Thanks for reading.  Good luck in this final week.

Ever Want Some Clarification on Formative Assessment?

Well, then, check this out…at least the part that you can read (I’m not a subscriber either).

As educators across the country focus attention on designing new and better ways to gauge what students are learning, they risk distorting the meaning and practice of formative assessment and squandering its potential to enhance teaching and learning, an assessment expert is warning.

Even better, you can read the report that is the subject of the article right HERE.



End of Assessment Week

Thanks to everyone who made Assessment Week so successful. Upwards of 800 students took the Social Science Assessment, designed by HWC faculty, and with lots of help from committee members and computer lab staff and volunteering faculty and willing, volunteer students and the tremendous leadership (and sacrifice) of Michael Heathfield (he practically lived in the computer lab this week), this semester’s Assessment Week was a tremendous success.

And just in case you’re wondering what Assessment Week is all about and why it matters, I thought I’d throw this piece from the Chronicle out to you.

UMBC specializes in the task that every parent, pundit, and lawmaker in America most wants universities to accomplish: teaching young people to become great scientists and engineers. It may already be better at this than the Ivies and Research I universities that everyone knows.

But without reliable, public assessment information to prove that to the world, UMBC has few ways of elevating its standing to a level that matches the quality of its academic work. Right now, universities’ reputations rest on wealth, fame, and selectivity. UMBC can’t hit up rich alumni for giant donations because it hasn’t existed long enough for many of its alumni to get rich. Starting a big-time sports program is a bad bet, as the scandal-plagued basketball program at Binghamton University, a fellow America East Conference member, shows. If UMBC becomes too selective, it risks sacrificing diversity and its obligations as a public institution. And it will be hard for whoever follows Hrabowski to match his particular talents.

Without a good measuring stick, great public universities can’t prove their greatness.

Thanks to all who contributed toward our efforts to both improve student learning and measure our success at helping students learn.

On Assessment

Lots of interesting ideas in this NY Times article about experimentally validated approaches to assessing  student learning. For example:

Instead, we should come up with assessments that truly measure the qualities of well-educated children: the ability to understand what they read; an interest in using books to gain knowledge; the capacity to know when a problem calls for mathematics and quantification; the agility to move from concrete examples to abstract principles and back again; the ability to think about a situation in several different ways; and a dynamic working knowledge of the society in which they live.

This task is not as difficult as one might think.

And then there’s this (are you reading this “Effective Writing” Assessment Sub-Committee members?), among others:

For instance, children could write essays in response to a prompt like, “Choose something you are good at, and describe to your reader how you do it.” That would allow each student to draw on his area of expertise, show his ability to analyze the process, describe a task logically and convey real information and substance. In turn, a prompt of, “Write a description of yourself from your mother’s point of view,” would help gauge the child’s ability to understand the perspectives of others.

Check out the rest of the piece HERE.