Assessment is fundamental – it’s how we check our understanding and build evidence for our claims. I think of assessment as multi-level: classroom, program, disciplinary, and college. College and disciplinary assessment often involve some form of accreditation. When accreditation is involved, then assessment mimics standards-based grading – externally decided upon standards are provided and we, as a college or discipline, must determine either how to meet them or how we already comply with them. We then use assessment to provide the evidence that the college or discipline meets those standards as well as a visual narrative of how we meet the standards.
For program and classroom assessment, I think of assessment as learning, empowerment, emancipation. On a classroom level, I think using evidence and equity-based practices like authentic, reflective assessments that are ungraded based on individual contexts works best. On a program level, progressively building higher Bloom’s level assessments encourages advancement towards larger goals like critical thinking, informational and digital literacy, effective communication, etc. When we use assessment strategically to build systems that move students and/or ourselves towards greater learning, empowerment, or emancipation, assessment can be transformative.
I believe one of the major purposes of the Assessment Academy (AA) is transformation on both program and classroom levels. The process used in AA mixes evaluative research with action research in order to find the gaps in a program (what we’re not doing or not doing well). We then experiment with ways to fill those gaps with different classroom interventions. Assessment occurs several times throughout the AA process to evaluate the gaps and then to assess the success of the interventions used. Assessment can also happen within the intervention as a learning and reflective practice.
In AA, we ask research questions that drill to the root of the problem that’s causing the gaps we find. That’s where DEIJ, #QuantCrit, and data ethics come in. If we’re asking, “Why do my Latinx students do worse in my math classes than my white students?”: that’s a poor research question. A better question is “Why do some Latinx students perform at a different level than other students on current math assessments in college algebra at CNM?” The best question might be “What factors impede the performance of Latinx students on current math assessments in college algebra at CNM?” Helping participants in AA see the differences between these questions helps support DEIJ efforts throughout CNM.
Program level assessment needs both numbers and narratives (quantitative and qualitative data collection/analysis). It is critical to our program success that we know whether the AA interventions result in authentic student learning, but we cannot know that from grades alone.
In terms of leading these efforts, I will work to build consensus and agency within the teams I lead to develop our assessment efforts collaboratively and contextually. These efforts also require clear and consistent messaging so that no one involved in any college assessment is confused about the process or the outcomes.