From Compliance to Improvement: Accountability and Assessment for California’s Community Colleges Norena Norton Badway, Ph.D. University of the Pacific Higher Education Evaluation and Research Group
Introduction: Choosing Improvement over Compliance
Compliance…Improvement Compliance Improvement
Improvement…Compliance Compliance Improvement
SayingYES to Assessment and Accountability • acknowledges community colleges’ appropriate roles in equity, upgrade training, lifelong learning, and other unconventional missions • gives faculty an appropriate voice in running their institutions • promotes a form of research in teaching and the creation of improvements in teaching • provides a foundation for widespread institutional improvement • become more effective learning environments
Accountability is NOT new in CA California Community Colleges operate under at least four accountability systems: • PFE uses system level goals • State Report Card assesses performance of all publicly funded workforce preparation programs • Federal Vocational and Technical Education Act • Workforce Investment Act
… and now WASC • WASC has been the last regional accreditation commission to require colleges to develop mechanisms of assessment and use of student learning outcomes •••WASC lets LOCALITIES choose which aspects of SLOs to measure and how to measure them
Well developed system of internal accountability Ability to respond to external accountability requirements
Taking Stock Of Existing Resources
It is unlikely that any campus does not have in place — either informally or formally — some aspects of a Cycle of Inquiry about Student Learning.
TAKING STOCK Acknowledges Existing Practices Presenting student learning outcomes assessment cycles as if it is a totally new process ignores existing practices.
TAKING STOCKFosters Faculty Dialogue Dialogue about a department’s philosophy about teaching and learning guides the choice of student learning outcomes.
TAKING STOCKFacilitates Norming • Expectations for for what students know and can demonstrate upon completion of the course are collaboratively authored and collectively accepted.1 • Full time and adjunct faculty who teach a course come to consensus. 1Maki, P.L. (2004). Assessing for Learning. American Association for Higher Education, Sterling, VA: Stylus.
The Benefit of Alignment When these five elements • student expectations, • faculty expectations, • curriculum content, • institutional support, • governance for assessment) are in alignment, or in equilibrium, classrooms and student learning are likely to run smoothly.
The Risks of Non-alignment • If professors disagree with the curriculum, they may undermine or embellish it, for good or bad. • If institutions fail to support faculty, they may undermine the possibility of being a “teaching institution”. • If professors and students disagree about the content or teaching methods, classes may be hostile, with little learning going on.
TAKING STOCK: STUDENTS ? Students • What do you know about your students’ attitudes and beliefs about learning?
Taking Stock • We have a systematic way of gathering information about student beliefs and values about learning.
Faculty usually know a great deal about students and their lives, and we try to be sympathetic to the “busied-up” conditions caused (often) by the need to work and maintain family responsibilities. We may know much less about how students think about the purpose of college and the nature of learning.
In the conventional professorial model of college, invisible disjunctions between students’ and professors’ understanding about teaching and learning become the students’ responsibility. In a more collaborative model of teaching, part of the professor’s responsibility involves understanding how students perceive college, the curriculum, and the nature of learning.
ACTIVITY: STUDENTS • Into what key groups do you subcategorize your students?
ACTIVITY: STUDENTS • How do you identify the changing needs of your student groups?
ACTIVITY: STUDENTS • What are your students’ beliefs and values about learning?
ACTIVITY: STUDENTS • How do you know? • What is the mechanism for gathering this information • What is the forum in which you discuss categories, changing needs, and attitudes of students?
ACTIVITY: STUDENTS • Are your students credentialist, wanting credit/ credentials but not necessarily the learning the credential signifies (grades matter more than content)?
ACTIVITY: STUDENTS • Are your students vocationalist, using college as a route to employment (relevancy matters more than intellectualism; students continuously make cost-benefit calculations)?
ACTIVITY: STUDENTS • Do your students undermine their own learning outcomes by being fearful, afraid of being caught unprepared, isolated, intimidated by professors?
ACTIVITY: STUDENTS • Do they manage their fear in unproductive ways by keeping quiet in class, by avoiding hard classes, by scaling down their ambitions, by failing to submit work even when it’s completed, or by dropping or stopping out?
ACTIVITY: STUDENTS • Do your students define learning as the accumulation of facts?
Discussion: What are the results of mis-alignment between faculty and student goals? • Students rebel against professor efforts to expand students’ knowledge. • The counter-productive behavior of students can generate counter-productive reactions from faculty.
Changing the attitudes of students may be difficult, because we have to fight against larger social trends and pressures, but it is likely to be better accomplished through the collective actions of all faculty, than by the efforts of professors one-by-one.
TAKING STOCK: INSTRUCTORS ? Instructors • What do you know about instructors’ attitudes, beliefs and knowledge about teaching and learning? • Is teaching “community property”?
Higher education is unique in that it generally denies employment to those schooled in its craft: teaching and learning. Faculty autonomy, academic freedom, and professional discretion weigh against shared (normed) expectations, assessments and criteria. The issue of inter-rater reliability rarely is raised in higher education.
Taking Stock • Everyone in our department agrees that we have common learning objectives for each course. • Everyone in our department agrees on a process for determining how we will assess student learning. • We regularly share what works and what doesn’t work with subgroups of students. • We have a formal process for using what we learn to improve what we do related to student learning.
ACTIVITY: FACULTY • What philosophies, principles, models of teaching, research on learning, or shared assumptions about teaching and learning underlie your curricular or co-curricular design, instructional design, or use of educational tools?
ACTIVITY: FACULTY • What pedagogies or educational experiences develop the knowledge, understanding, habits of the mind, ways of knowing, and problem solving that this discipline, profession, program or institution values?
ACTIVITY: FACULTY • How do faculty and student support services build on each others’ courses and educational experiences to achieve departmental/ programmatic/ institutional learning priorities?
ACTIVITY: FACULTY • What are faculty attitudes and knowledge about learning, teaching, assessment, “teaching as community property”, and continuous improvement?
ACTIVITY: FACULTY • Is there a forum for discussing examples and reasons for student success or lack of success, teaching ideas and methods? How often are these the topics of discussion among faculty?
ACTIVITY: FACULTY • How have faculty previously developed, shared and implemented student learning outcomes and assessments?
TAKING STOCK: CURRICULUM ? Curriculum • What are external influences on curriculum? • What is the consistency of curriculum?
Taking Stock • Everyone in our department shares the same expectations of what students should know and be able to do at the end of each of our courses. • At the beginning of the semester, we share with students what is expected of them, the criteria by which they will be measured, and what standards are required for grades and course completion.
ACTIVITY: CURRICULUM • Which of your critical curriculum is set by external agencies?
ACTIVITY: CURRICULUM • What is the consistency in expectations across sections of a course?
ACTIVITY: CURRICULUM • When/ where do instructors norm content and assessment?
ACTIVITY: CURRICULUM • Do instructors collaborate on and/or do peer review of learning outcomes for critical courses?
TAKING STOCK: INSTITUTIONAL ? Institutional Support • What regulations impact student learning outcomes? • How do local practices and policies impact student learning outcomes and assessment?
Taking Stock • Our organizational practices and processes are designed to strengthen student learning outcomes. • Faculty time, professional development, as well as hiring, promotion, and tenure policies place highest priority on student learning outcomes.