National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment |

National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment

Helping Faculty to Embrace Learning Outcomes Assessment

Helping Faculty to Embrace Learning Outcomes Assessment
Abdou Ndoye at Qatar University

The accountability and continuous improvement movements have placed learning outcomes assessment at the forefront of higher education institutions’ effectiveness. Such emphasis poses a number of challenges to institutions and disciplines, one of which entails the difficulties of continually engaging and involving faculty in the assessment process. While most discussions related to faculty involvement in assessment are framed around issues of faculty resistance, this viewpoint suggests a framework to promote faculty readiness to embrace learning outcome assessment. The suggested framework is based on Harvey's (1995) checklist for change and is built upon the three main principles of 1) persuasion to do assessment, 2) potential to do assessment and 3) payoff for doing assessment ( which I refer to as the 3Ps).

The 3 Ps

1. Persuasion
Most faculty "resistance" is due to a lack of persuading and convincing faculty that assessment is a process worth undertaking (Miller, 2012). Dialogue and discussion should be the key elements in trying to persuade faculty. Faculty are interested in learning if their students are acquiring relevant knowledge and skills, they want to know if students are learning what they are teaching. outlining the benefits of learning outcomes assessment and also appropriately addressing concerns. Opening lines of communication and constant conversation between faculty and assessment specialists and other campus leaders as well as among faculty themselves can help persuade. In the process of persuasion, we need to work closely with higher education leadership (President, Provost, Deans and Department chairs etc.) as advocates of proposed changes ( Kinzie, 2010) and to provide a forum for conversation regarding shared values. Through an opportunity to engage in dialogue and conversation, faculty have a chance to express concerns while taking an active role in the establishment of a meaningful assessment system.

2. Potential
This second P refers to faculty members' abilities and knowledge to conduct assessment. Do faculty have the required knowledge and skills to implement assessment? A key deterrent to faculty embracing assessment is that most are not trained in assessment and may find it difficult to relate to what assessment professionals and campus leaders are expecting them to do. Potential requires professional development on assessment tools and techniques as well as fostering an understanding of a learning-centered approach. Institutions can build faculty potential through regular training, workshops, and conferences. Resources on a website that explain concepts and provides how to guidelines for faculty can be very helpful. Establishing and promoting ongoing discipline-specific and campus-wide conversations about assessment techniques and results can further inform potential.

3. Payoff
What is the value for the faculty? The department chair? The dean? Deans and departments need to see a payoff in order to support and embrace learning outcomes assessment. While it is important to reward faculty, we should not forget to include recognition for department chairs and deans. Assessment is a large investment in terms of faculty time and expertise and as with any investment; a return of some sort is expected.

Additionally payoff should not only take only take into account “positive assessment results” or fully developed assessment plans and processes or improvements in student learning. In other words, we need to reward programs and departments that are showing potential even if their assessment practices are not yet showing expected results. For example, a program struggling with designing and using effective rubrics could receive a grant to have faculty develop rubrics for one or two of their learning outcomes. Besides financial compensation, payoff could involve highlighting achievements of programs and individual faculty involvement, showing appreciation by sending a thank you letter or a certificate after participating in an assessment activity or event, or promoting healthy competition through small grants to programs and faculty who show progress and initiatives in assessment.

This framework of persuasion, potential and payoff will not solve all faculty involvement concerns, but rather provide a means that can help facilitate communicating with faculty and other stakeholders. After all, establishing a culture of assessment requires all of us to engage in changing how we see our roles and responsibilities as higher education professionals as well as our day to day practices.

References

Harvey, T. (1995). Checklist for Change: A Pragmatic Approach to Creating and Controlling
Change
(L.B. Wehmeyer, Ed.)(2nd ed.). Lancaster: Technomic.

Kinzie, J. (2010). Perspectives from campus leaders on the current state of student learning outcome assessment: NILOA focus group summary 2009-2010.Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA)

Miller, M. A. (2012). From denial to acceptance: The stages of assessment (NILOA Occasional Paper No.13). Urbana, IL: University for Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment. 

You may also be interested in NILOA's Occasional Paper 4: Opening Doors to Faculty Involvement in Assessment by Pat Hutchings.

The Assessment Brief for Faculty, What New Faculty Need to Know About Assessment by Pat Hutchings may be of interest.