ASSESStivus explores assessment practices

Following the Middle States Commission on Higher Education’s visit to Geneseo in spring 2012, the College Assessment Advisory Committee put together a full-day event called ASSESStivus to reinforce the college’s dedication to student assessment.

Held on Wednesday Oct. 10, ASSESStivus explored assessment initiatives and evaluation practices within the college.

Associate Provost and CAAC Chair David Gordon worked with CAAC members to form the ASSESStivus schedule and its intended outcomes, the first of which “reinforces Geneseo’s commitment to a continuous improvement model of assessment.”

“Often times no one knows what comes out of these studies,” Gordon said. “It’s helpful for the college to have a public event to talk about what we’ve learned from assessment.”

ASSESStivus welcomed keynote speaker Ashley Finley, who serves as the senior director of assessment and research at the Association of American Colleges and Universities in Washington, D.C.

Finley aids college campuses across the country as they explore techniques for assessing students’ learning and progress. She is linked to Geneseo through the Bringing Theory to Practice Project, from which “Real World Geneseo” emerged in 2009.

In a phone interview, Finley spoke about annual presentations and collaborative assessments and what she felt were their value on college campuses.

Considering the recent economy and a changing job market, the conversation of higher education, Finley said, revolves around the “true efficacy” of a college degree, which she said is only revealed with effective assessment. Finley added that ASSESStivus brought in comprehensive and campus-wide evidence and was one of the “most inclusive” assessment events in which she had participated.

In two ASSESStivus seminars titled “Feats of Strength: What did we learn from our assessments?”, both academic and nonacademic campus figures shared their respective assessment practices.

Melinda Dubois, administrative director of student health and counseling at the Lauderdale Health Center presented the National College Health Assessment as part of the series. Dubois said that ASSESStivus lent itself to “more coordination and collaboration” and that separate assessment practices have the potential to diminish sharing opportunities.

Concurrent ASSESStivus sessions focused on mapping for both nonacademic and academic departments.

Katie Tierney, accreditation coordinator in the Institutional Research Office and CAAC member, said one of the Middle States’ suggestions was to “better align our college level goals and our course goals and everything in between.” Curriculum mapping, Tierney said, helps to find gaps where departments may need to strengthen if outcomes are not being met.

According to Tierney, outcome mapping was a “general conversation” between various nonacademic departments.

“The dirty secret about student learning is that most students are going to be doing a lot of learning outside of class,” Finley said.

“Parents and students want to know about outcomes and data, and one of the interesting things about the Internet exploding is the variety of information that people just expect,” said Julie Meyer Rao, Institutional Research Office director and CAAC member.

“We have a lot of good practices going on here,” Meyer Rao said. “We’re celebrating what we do well.”

Looking ahead, Tierney said a collective student voice at ASSESStivus would be beneficial. Tierney asked, “How do we make this meaningful for the students?”

According to Tierney, the idea of an annual assessment event is that “as we grow and mature, our assessment processes grow as well.”