From 2010-2014, the Provost’s Office designated annually a small group of faculty to serve as Assessment Fellows. The Provost charged the initial group to familiarize themselves with the key research related to academic assessment and then sharing their expertise with their faculty colleagues. The group drafted the “Guiding Principles for the Assessment of Student Learning at Franklin & Marshall, which were subsequently approved and presented to the faculty at a forum in the fall of 2010.
1. The goal of assessment is to improve student learning.
While good assessment will help us become more effective at what we care about most, it also forces us to recognize the ways in which teaching and learning are related, but not identical processes.
2. Assessment of student learning should be faculty-led.
While administrative offices have an important role to play, assessment is central to the process of teaching and learning, and thus is something that faculty must "own" and control.
3. Assessment is something that we already do in our classrooms and elsewhere around campus.
While this is true, moving to a more formal assessment of student learning involves being focused and reflective about this process, and mindful of our own best practices; it is not about doing more and pointless documentation.
4. Assessment includes articulating clear goals for a class, major, or program, and understanding how those goals are or are not being met.
We all have goals for teaching and learning, but we don't always enunciate them, even to ourselves. It's a valuable exercise to write them down and give them some serious thought, even if we don't include them into every syllabus.
5. Some very important learning outcomes are not easily assessed. But that does not mean we should not try; only that we should not accept easy but unsatisfactory solutions.
We must recognize this from the outset, and resist the impulse to discard or trivialize our goals in order to make them assessable. There is much to be gained from talking, thinking, and working on ways in which we might assess our more abstract goals.
6. Assessment comes from within the course/development/program being assessed, and is not an artifact of external requirements.
Meaningful assessment can only come from developing our own ways to understand teaching and learning in our classrooms, our departments and more generally at the College. The ultimate outcome of this is improved student learning, and sustainable assessment practice. Indeed, this is the natural outcome of self-reflective consideration of the role of one's course within the larger context of the major and the college, and departmental reflection on the role of the major in promoting student learning.
7. Assessment may not be used for other purposes than those outlined in these guiding principles, and in particular, it may not and will not be used for the evaluation of teaching.
The results of looking seriously at student learning outcomes will never be used as a tool of evaluation for individual faculty. Assessment will not become a "hammer" to force our colleagues into a particular mode of teaching, nor our students into a particular mode of learning.
8. Assessment data is "owned" by whomever initiates the gathering of it.
Because it is our intent that assessment activities be "formative" (used by the faculty member or department to improve practices), rather than "summative" (used in a process of evaluation), it is critical that assessment data "belong" to those who gather it. It would be reasonable for faculty members and/or departments to share with others summaries of their assessment activities.
9. There is no single "correct" model for assessment of student learning. Rather, there is a multiplicity of approaches, some unique to particular disciplines or types of courses, some to particular styles of teaching and learning, all of which can yield effective assessments that improve student learning.
There is no single blueprint for successful assessments. Thus, the process of assessment at F&M will respect departmental, disciplinary, and individual differences in pedagogy and subject matter.
10. The conversation matters.
We have come to realize that assessment is a process as much as an outcome. As we engage in the process of clarifying our goals, debating how to recognize them, considering what information will help us to do this, and all the other activities involved in assessment, we become more reflective practitioners, and therefore more effective at helping students learn.