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Three Initial Clarifications and Graphic Representations

Early assessment efforts at Capital Community College, driven by an appetite for a unified global approach to institutional self-knowledge and reform, ran into a tangle of purposes and initiatives which all bore the name "assessment." As we explored further, we saw that the tangle was the result of a failure to make key distinctions, a category confusion fallacy that some staff named "the smoosh factor." Smoosh confounds and therefore delays the development of the institutional unity that it professes to envision. Three clarifications have emerged to combat smoosh:

  1. Student Learning Assessment =/ Institutional Effectiveness Assessment
  2. Planning =/ Assessment
  3. The Global View is Simple
Student learning assessment is founded on collaborative conversations through which we identify units of knowledge and skill that we want students to be able to demonstrate at various stages of progress through our programs. Such collaborative focus on key aggregate goals is, for many staff, a new way of talking about how we work. This is particularly true in a college with a wide variety of vocational programs answering to distinct certifying boards, as well as a large Liberal Arts program preparing students to transfer to various four-year schools. Further, many of our courses are taught by adjuncts who are not easily available for collaboration, so a common assessment direction is challenged from the start.

To burden the conversations about student learning with the language and politics of other institutional self-knowledge projects is to risk deflecting all of the projects from their purposes. For this reason, we have taken apart some pieces of the global picture in order to see better where the distinctions lie and how the parts can most effectively interrelate. The linked pages develop the three clarifications proposed above. You will need Adobe's Acrobat reader to view these .pdf pages.


Comments on and illustrations of the following topics are available through these links:
  • Engaging Faculty by finding a common language between assessment planners and teachers.
  • Templates for course objectives and program goals.
  • Assessment Policy for incorporating assessment into college structures.
  • Five Year Plan for the development of a replicable pattern and sustainable pace

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