'You Can't Measure What We Teach'

Assess thyself, lest ye be assessed.

That’s a line I had drafted for inclusion in the English program review. (One of my colleagues suggested we shorten that to just “Assess thyself.”)  We requested funding to bring an assessment expert to campus, to hold a workshop for the English faculty.

Inside Higher Ed has an article on the resistance to assessment often found withing the humanities disciplines.

  • Any effort to try to measure learning in the humanities through
    what McCullough-Lovell deemed “[Margaret] Spellings-type assessment” —
    defined as tests or other types of measures that could be easily
    compared across colleges and neatly sum up many of the learning
    outcomes one would seek in humanities students — was doomed to fail,
    and should.
  • It might be possible, and could be valuable, for humanists to reach
    broad agreement on the skills, abilities, and knowledge they might seek
    to instill in their students, and that agreement on those goals might
    be a starting point for identifying effective ways to measure how well
    students have mastered those outcomes.
  • It is incumbent on humanities professors and academics generally to
    decide for themselves how to assess whether their students are
    learning, less to satisfy external calls for accountability than
    because it is the right thing for academics, as professionals who care
    about their students, to do.

“It’s in our hands — nobody is forcing us into overly prescriptive
models or any one particular way at this point, and it’s our
responsibility to respond to the public’s interest [in learning what
value they’re getting for their tuition and tax dollars] by doing it
ourselves,” said Grossman. “But the longer it’s delayed,” he warned,
“the more over time the public will start saying, ‘What is really going
on?’ and start pushing for the kinds of measures that nobody really
wants.” — Doug Lederman