Fri 9 Jan 2009
Whoever you are – student, staff, faculty, graduate no matter how many years out – How do you assess your own education now? How could that inform what Williams, or any college, does in a self assessment such as we are reading?
The boundaries of this assessment – and it’s standard practice – are almost entirely the four years that a student is at Williams. So be it. My premise is that this is necessary but not sufficient.
Not even a madman would assume that everyone, or anyone, has read the 43 pages of ten-point type David assigned here. These sections more recitations of what happens at Williams than an assessment of what happens. I don’t state that with any judgment or assessment, implied or otherwise. I don’t propose changing a syllable of the sections for today. My proposal is that we see what we can invent to help a college assess the lasting value of what happens during those four years.
No one could read this recitation of all Williams does with other than respect for the depth of programs from budgeting to the physical plant to the academics. My dream is that everyone could have a Williams education. I know that Charles Murray and others would decry that notion. Then, what would the value of a Williams education be if everyone had a Williams education? I’d love to find out what such a world would be, but this is not the time to discuss.
Here is the first paragraph of the section, “Assessment of Student Learning.” Most of the rest of the section amplifies this paragraph:
Assessment of student learning at Williams, as at most liberal arts colleges, is based on close student-faculty interaction, careful grading in courses, and course sequences in majors and programs, including capstone courses that require the acquisition of knowledge and skill to progress. Assessment is built into the structure of a Williams education and it is a fundamental responsibility of every teaching faculty member. We operate under the presumption of faculty responsibility and quality: teachers get to know their students well, they know best how to gauge student progress, and they are thoughtful and self-reflective in their evaluation of student performance. The careful assignment of grades is merely an endpoint in a system of assessment whereby faculty measure student progress frequently and provide individualized feedback. Faculty routinely work to enhance student learning in light of scholarly and pedagogical developments within their fields, and use student learning as a gauge of their own effectiveness. They also take seriously students’ own perceptions of their learning experience, as reflected in our mandatory course evaluation surveys, which use quantitative measures and have separate pages for optional written comments.
Change nothing here. How do you know today that you have a great education? How would you assess this value? Go back to your own time in school. What else could Williams, or anywhere else, both do and assess during the four years to see if Williams is creating lifelong value? What’s the survey Williams could give you now? What would the questions be?
This is a big question in education. No one has an answer. Let’s put Ephblog on the map for inventing this new assessment.
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