Some useful books in our library

Anderson, Lorin W. and others. A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York: Longman, 2001. Examines the taxonomy in depth and provides means of analyzing assignments and designing assessments. Many charts and examples.
(LB 17 .T29 2001)

Angelo, Thomas A. and K. Patricia Cross. Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1993. A much-used guide to methods for conducting formative assessment during a course in order to help students assess their own learning and to get a quick snapshot of student learning. See this website for a  quick overview of some classroom assessment techniques.
(LB 2822.75 .A54 1993)

Bain, Ken. What the Best College Teachers Do. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2004. An intriguing study of successful teachers and how they prepare and conduct their classes. The last chapter, “How Do They Evaluate Their Students?” considers ways these teachers assess learning, which is focused on their development as learners rather than on performance.

[This approach] assumes that learning is a developmental process rather than only a question of acquisition. Learning entails primarily intellectual and personal changes that people undergo as they develop new understandings and reasoning abilities. Second, grading becomes not a way to rank but a way to communicate with students. Evidence about learning might come from an examination, a paper, a project, or a conversation, but it is that learning, rather than a score, that professors try to characterize and communicate.

Bain offers examples of how teachers got to know their students, solicited anonymous feedback during the course to uncover issues, constructed tests that build skills and knowledge rather than check recall of information, and evaluate their own teaching. But essentially, the entire book is about how good teachers constantly probe their students’ understanding and adjust to make it more successful.
(LB2331 .B34 2004)

Bok, Derek. Our Underachieving Colleges: A Candid Look at How Much Students Learn and Why They Should Be Learning More. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2006. Though not specific about how to develop student learning outcomes, this book explores the key purposes of higher education: learning to think and communicate, building character, preparation for citizenship, living with diversity, preparing for a global society, acquiring broader interests, and preparing for a career. He sees many common practices in higher ed (though not lack of care for students or interest in teaching) as obstacles. The final chapter examines assessment issues.

Professors seldom receive clear evidence of how much students are learning. Classes themselves offer few clues, especially in large classes taught by lectures to a passive audience. Course evaluations offer some insight, but they usually focus on whether the instructor was clear, knowledgeable, and accessible to students without saying little about how much student think they learned. [footnote: According to one survey, only 40 percent of college instructors even use student evaluations in planning or revising their courses . . .] Papers and exams are not terribly informative either . . . (315)

[Though some teachers experiment with innovation they] remain a minority. Safely insulated from reliable evidence of how their students are progressing, most faculty members have happily succumbed to the Lake Wobegone effect. As surveys have confirmed, close to 90 percent of college teachers consider their teaching “above average.” . . . (316)

[Some colleges] try to assess student progress toward certain individual goals, such as competence in writing or critical thinking. Still, as one recent review pointed out, “just because an institution assessed student learning outcomes relative to a general education goal [does] not mean that the assessment information was used in [planning the curriculum].  Nor is there much indication that these evaluations affect how professors teach their courses or how departments develop their concentrations. Still less evident are campuswide efforts to combine assessments with an ongoing process for identifying problems, finding innovative ways to address them, and testing new methods to see whether they work. . . . On most campuses, no systematic attempt is even made to determine which students are underperforming or how they might be helped to do better . . . (316-17)

Bresciani, Marilee J. Outcomes-Based Academic and Co-Curricular Program Review: A Compilation of Good Practices. Sterling, VA: Stylus, 2006. Discusses outcomes-based assessment in the context of program reviews and best practices based on the experiences of several institutions.
(LB 3051 .B693 2006)

Cross, Patricia and Mimi Harris Steadman. Classroom Research: Implementing the Scholarship of Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1996. Includes case studies introducing background on learning theory, including self-confidence and motivation, learning goals, and designing classroom research projects.
(LB 2331 .C766 1996)

How Students Learn: History Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. A review of how research in neuroscience and cognitive science can guide good teaching, with specific examples from three disciplines.  The full text is also available online.  Related titles of interest include How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School and How People Learn: Bridging Research and Practice.

Suskie, Linda. Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide. Bolton, MA: Anker, 2004. A user-friendly step-by-step overview of assessment that covers planning, assessment tools, and approaches to using the results.  She argues that it helps students by giving them clear expectations, providing motivation, feedback for improvement, and documentation of their abilities. For faculty, assessment is an opportunity to discuss the big questions of teaching, see how their work fits together, and provide evidence of the quality of their work.
(LB 2336 .S87 2004)

Some interesting articles

Bain, K. & Zimmerman, J. (2009) “Understanding Great Teaching,” Peer Review 11. Outlines ways in which good teachers involve students in doing the discipline before they know much about the discipline by helping them frame the kinds of questions the discipline asks and engaging them in authentic problems.

While most undergraduate textbooks are organized deductively, moving from general principles to specific examples, teachers who promote deep learning approaches help students to learn inductively, moving from fascinating and important questions to general principles of the discipline. Aristotle said it long ago: ‘For the things we must learn to do before we can do them, we learn by doing them.’ John Dewey added, ‘We don’t learn from experience; we learn by reflecting on experience.’

Scobey, David. “Meaning and Metrics.” Inside Higher Ed 19 March 2009. Argues for a holistic, autobiographical, and reflective form of assessment that is a better match for the humanities than metrics based on cultural knowledge.

What, then, would a robust assessment practice look like? It would embody the qualities that typify humanities learning itself. It would be iterative: gathering and evaluating portfolios of material from the whole arc of the student’s career. It would be exploratory and integrative: asking students to include in those portfolios materials in which they are not only learning about the humanities in their course of study, but also using it in their civic, ethical, vocational, and personal development.

It would be autobiographical: requiring students to narrate and thematize that development, to frame their portfolios with their own, small versions of Obama’s memoir. And it would be reflective: calling on them at threshold-moments to plan and take stock, to evaluate their successes and failures, and (equally important) to make explicit what they count as success and failure in their education. This last point is crucial: humanities assessment (like humanities learning) is intrinsically dialogical and open-ended. Indeed the sine qua non of a successful humanities education may be precisely that it equips students to discuss and contest the question, “Has my education been a success?” with their teachers and their peers.

Wirth, Karl and Dexter Perkins. “Knowledge Surveys: An Indispensable Course Design and Assessment Tool.” Innovations in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Describes a process of surveying students at the beginning, middle, and end of a course to see how confident students are in their knowledge of course material. This enables the teacher to emphasize what needs emphasis, speed up review of what they already know, and promotes students’ reflection on their own learning.  See this website for more details about how this works in a geoscience program.

Reports and Documents

Association of American Colleges & Universities. Our Students’ Best Work: A Framework for Accountability Worthy of Our Mission. 2nd ed.  Washington, DC: AAC&U, 2008. Agues that liberal education should be assessed, but not using oversimplified measures that don’t account for liberal learning outcomes that are difficult to measure. Offers ten recommendations to approach assessment meaningfully.

  • Make liberal education the new standard of excellence for all students
  • Articulate locally owned goals for student learning outcomes
  • Set standards in each goal area for basic, proficient, and advanced performance
  • Develop clear and complementary responsibilities between general education and departmental and other programs for liberal education outcomes
  • Charge departments and programs with responsibility for the level and quality of students’ most advanced work
  • Create milestone assessments across the curriculum
  • Set clear expectations for culminating work performed at a high level of accomplishment
  • Provide periodic external review and validation of assessment practices and standards
  • Make assessment findings part of a campuswide commitment to inquiry and educational improvement

Kuh, George D. High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter [excerpt] Washington, DC: AAC&U, 2008.  An analysis of what practices that research studies have shown to have the most beneficial effect – particularly for underserved students. These practices are

  • First-Year Seminars and Experiences
  • Common Intellectual Experiences
  • Learning Communities
  • Writing-Intensive Courses
  • Collaborative Assignments and Project
  • Undergraduate Research
  • Diversity/Global Learning
  • Service Learning, Community-Based Learning
  • Internships
  • Capstone Courses and Projects

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