Professor of Sociology
As a sociologist, I’ve been aware of assessment in a general sense for many years now, and as a sociologist who studies education, I’ve been tracking the now-twinned movements of assessment and accountability over the last twenty years. I teach the Methods course in our department, and thus am familiar with issues of measurement and data analysis, both quantitative (surveys and statistics) and qualitative. I’ve informally consulted with friends and colleagues over the years on program assessment issues. For the Sociology Department’s last external review (in the spring of 2007), I designed, fielded, and analyzed the results from a brief, emailed survey of our alumni.
Over the past several years, I’ve read a fair amount of the literature on assessment of college student learning - both “how to” books and articles, and critiques. Conversations with colleagues here at F&M and elsewhere have reinforced both my skepticism about some uses of assessment as well as my firm belief in its value. I believe one of the main strengths of F&M’s approach to this critical issue is our insistence on paying attention to both. As affirmed in the “Guiding Principles” underlying assessment of student learning at F&M, drawn up by the first cohort of Fellows and endorsed by the Provost, “the conversation matters.” I am always happy to participate in it. By sharing our experiences, both positive and negative, we can identify what is helpful and what is not, and use the former to help ourselves become more reflective and thereby, more effective teachers.