Rethinking Assessment

Last spring I was appointed acting director of our University Teaching Center.  The center has been alive for two years before this but we’ve never had a director.  I’ve worked this summer to revamp the old programs and create new ones.  You can see the details on our website at  One thing I plan to do is publish regular content on the site, to which anyone can subscribe via RSS or list-serv.  I’d love to have some outside recipients.  (If you subscribe via RSS, I appreciate your letting me know so I can track the number of users.)

A major new initiative that we are responsible for is changing the culture of assessment among faculty.  We have done some form of assessment for 15 years or so, but this has always been perceived by faculty as an unfunded mandate to meet a meaningless goal put on us by an external authority.  Not surprisingly, few academic departments have taken assessment seriously, and even fewer have used assessment results to improve their programs.  The individuals in charge of departmental assessment have typically been the most junior members of departments with little power to create change.

One thing that has struck me is the disconnect between how administrators view assessment and how faculty view it.  The goal I will be working towards is to get faculty to believe that there are significant benefits to serious assessment that offset the very real costs of doing assessment well.  I think it’s going to be a tough sell.

The second week of the semester, I sent out an email announcing the Teaching Center to all faculty and as many staff as I could identify.  The response was a bit underwhelming.  I suspect that not every recipient  took the time to read the email carefully or explored the website.  How do I reach faculty/staff to at least make sure they make a conscious decision not to participate?  Still working on that one.  Suggestions are welcome!

I plan to blog my thinking this year as I direct the Center.  Perhaps it will be of some benefit to others.

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