Becoming a Learner in the Assessment Community

Andrea M. Karkowski, Capital University

It all started with a grant proposal it was an inauspicious start. I would have preferred a less public, less important introduction to formal assessment techniques. But there I was, the only member of the eleven-faculty grant team who had a background, no matter how tangential, that could be molded into assessment. And, a $400,000 grant was riding on my ability to develop an appropriate assessment plan. I read, cover to cover, two publications by National Science Foundation on assessment techniques. I developed the assessment plan based on that information, and when the grant was awarded I was charged with working with the outside evaluators on conducting the assessment.

"How exciting!" you might think, gentle reader.

"Hah!" I reply, that's when the real learning began. The outside evaluators (who were professionals at this) were very brutally, honest in assessing my assessment plan. I was both humbled and enlightened. I learned (and continue to learn) how to write goals and objectives that can be assessed. I learned (and continue to learn) that it isn't as easy as it seems to write assessment questions that target what you are trying to assess. I learned (and continue to learn) that after all of the data are collected they must be summarized, analyzed, synthesized, and interpreted.

And so began my reputation on campus as someone who knows something about assessment. Another grant, another plan… upcoming accreditation, another plan… another grant, another plan… a new program, another plan… and so on… At some point, however, I would like to get formal training on assessment.

I would like to learn how to facilitate the widespread practice of assessment among all faculty, even those who vehemently resist assessment. I would like to know how to make assessment such an integral component of what faculty do that they no longer have to think about actually doing the assessment. I would like to learn how to document the assessment in such a way that it can be linked to proposed changes in the curriculum and so that administrators will take seriously those proposed changes.

I image that many faculty and administrators have had similar experiences being thrown into assessment to achieve a particular goal and ending up as the "assessment expert" on campus.