Sigma Xi Statement - Richard W. Berry

Richard W. Berry, San Diego State University

Building confidence of faculty in using assessment tools and strategies. During much of my teaching career I have used exams, term papers and reports with grades assigned on the basis of a mixture of objective and subjective criteria. I gradually became dissatisfied with the sole use of traditional teaching and assessment methods. In my areas of teaching (geology majors, general education students, and public school teahers in preparation) I responded to the dissatisfaction by introducing as many "hands-on" classroom activities as possible and by varying assessment techniques so that students would not be unfairly assessed through use of a single tool. While vice-chair of the California science Curriculum Framework and Criteria Committee I developed an active interest in the results of research on how the brain functions during learning. It became clear that individuals acquire data and process information in a variety of ways and demonstrate what they have learned in ways that are different from each other. This encouraged me to continue to adjust my own teaching and assessment techniques. Authentic assessment used problem solving that was as close as possible to real life situations in order to assess students' acquisition of knowledge by their ability to apply what had been learned. Whenever possible, students were evaluated on the bases of their performances rather than on regurgitated factoids. In order to be flexible and also quantitative in assessment, rubrics were found to be an important tool. I was unfamiliar with rubrics as used in education until three years ago. Most of my university colleagues remain unfamiliar with them (except for those in schools of education). Since my retirement in June, 2001 I continue to try to share my new-found assessment experiences as well as increase my understanding of how assessment can best be accomplished. I gave an invited lecture about United States' science education at the July, 2001 meeting of the International Clay Conference in Bahia Blanca, Argentina. I will participate in the June, 2002 workshop associated with the national meeting of the Clay Minerals Society where I will introduce university faculty and other interested persons to rubrics, their construction and application. Simplicity and power of rubrics used to support university teaching will be emphasized. I have been invited to contribute to and coordinate contributions of others to a chapter devoted to teaching clay science that will be part of the Handbook of Clay Science being compiled by European clay scientists for publication in Europe some time in 2003. Public school systems are ahead of most universities when it comes to learning assessment procedures. As a result of my ongoing service on the Lakeside Union School District Science K-8 Committee I have become convinced that university educators have much they can learn from the experiences of their counterparts in public school systems. I would benefit greatly from the opportunity to join the roundtable on Assessment in the Service of Student Learning and hope that I would be able to contribute, as well.