Faculty and administration participate in Institutional Effectiveness Day
Radford University's senior faculty and administration gathered on Sept. 25 for Institutional Effectiveness Day, an opportunity to discuss educational achievement and campus life.
The theme for this year's event was "Making Connections – Integrating Teaching & Learning with Assessment."
"Higher education is encountering an era of change, which requires every institution to become increasingly proactive, efficient and effective," said President Penelope W. Kyle. "Today’s discussions on assessment are an important component of the need for Radford University to position itself for the future."
Assessment has become a necessary and vital aspect of higher education, the president said. At RU, ensuring student learning in all courses and programs is a top priority. When departments and units assess programs and activities to ensure they are meeting their student learning goals, the data can be used to improve student experiences on campus.
"I think that we are well on our way of incorporating a culture of evidence at RU, making assessment a part of what we do for continuous improvement of student learning, programs and services," Kyle said.
Peter Doolittle was the guest speaker at the event. A national speaker on issues of educational psychology and assessment, Doolittle serves at Virginia Tech as assistant provost for Teaching and Learning, executive director of the Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research, and professor of educational psychology.
Doolittle stressed that assessment was much more than taking tests and reviewing teacher evaluations at the end of the semester. Rather, it should be an ongoing process where students and instructors find ways to be accountable for learning in the classroom.
"I want to encourage you to take a look at things from a slightly different perspective as we move forward," Doolittle told the audience, encouraging them to be wary of "silver bullet" educational trends that might solve problems in the classroom. Instead of deploying new technology or using a new rubric and calling it assessment, faculty should ensure their students are truly processing material.
"How can we leverage these tools to teaching, learning and assessment?" Doolittle asked. "We organize our world and we have to process it in different ways. But what we process, we learn."
Doolittle advocated for incorporating assessment into learning in practical ways. In an example from his own classroom, he talked about how his students were not showing understanding about their readings. To fix the problem he created an "artifact," or practical assessment result. Students were required to write 25 word statements of the main idea in each reading, which required them to engage critically with the material to understand its meaning. With the introduction of the assessment artifact – the 25 word statements - into the course, student understanding and dialogue greatly increased, according to Doolittle.
"I think he got at a lot of the things we need to get faculty to understand," said Lynn M. Zoch, director of the RU School of Communication. "Assessment can be part of what we do in the classroom, instead of something we overlay at the end. The important thing is that we figure out what outcomes we want."
Also speaking at the event were RU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Sam Minner and Assistant Vice Provost for Academic Assessment Ebenezer Kolajo.
Kolajo leads the Office of Academic Assessment, which coordinates a variety of assessment initiatives on campus and offers assistance and guidance to programs and departments wishing to increase understanding through assessment.