A Neglected Necessity in Liberal Arts Assessment: The Student as the Unit of Analysis

A Neglected Necessity in Liberal Arts Assessment: The Student as the Unit of Analysis

Daniel F. Chambliss (Hamilton College, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-667-9.ch018
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This chapter describes how the trend favoring assessment initiatives of a system-wide scope such as program review and collegiate learning assessment (CLA) tends to overlook the specific, highly concrete learning experiences of individual students in the liberal arts. These individual cases offer a rich source of data for assessment. The insights that can be derived from a rigorous analysis of such individual experience can tell educators much about learning outcomes, teaching quality, and curricular effectiveness. It is in this regard that this chapter argues for the student as the unit of analysis in assessment initiatives.
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Student Perspective Isn’T Faculty Or Administration Perspective

Along a “horizontal” dimension, imagining people standing side by side, students aren’t like professors or administrators. They sleep later in the morning and they stay up half the night. They take tests, while other people write and grade tests. Students follow rules; deans and professors make up rules. Many students live on their parents’ money. Most have never read Darwin, Marx, or Freud. They were born in specific years, belong to particular generations, and see the world through the eyes of the era in which they grew up. Each fall, Beloit College issues a “mindset” list, reminding its faculty that contemporary first-year students have always lived in a world with MTV and AIDS, have never owned (or even seen) a record player, and remember neither Johnny Carson nor the USSR (http://www.beloit.edu/~pubaff/mindset). Students not only hold different opinions and a different view of things than we do; they hold an entirely different place in life. For a teacher, or a college, to be successful in transforming their students, we need to understand and use such knowledge.

Consider a simple example. Academic deans and professors view their colleges as organizations of programs, departments, and faculties, all deployed in such a way as to provide a good education. We believe that courses are fundamental, curricula are important, and professors stand at the center of college life. We “would hope” students take their studies seriously, and sometimes think they “should” work a 40-hour week on academics.

But for a freshman entering college, the immediate challenge is managing an independent life: living on one’s own, away from parents, with no one enforcing curfews. Students can stay out late without permission, maybe get a little (or very) drunk, and even have a boyfriend or girlfriend sleep over for an entire night. Drugs! Sex! No adults!

And some classes.

And in the academic realm itself, students and professionals experience things differently:

Foundations, presidents, and deans love to talk about innovation, new programs, exciting new turns in curriculum planning and pedagogy. But for students, it’s all new—Western Civilization, Introduction to Anthropology, Geology with Lab, Shakespeare, the whole thing. Picking one’s own classes, schedules, and teachers is a novelty; deciding not to attend class is breathtaking; to most freshmen, the daily reality of being in college, with all that entails, is itself astonishingly innovative.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Collegiate Learning Assessment: The goal of the CLA project is not to measure changes in individual students, but rather to learn more about programmatic features that correlate with “institutional effects” associated with larger than expected gains in students’ analytical reasoning, critical thinking, and writing skills. The CLA provides one of the first ‘value added’ measures that can reliably compare institutional contributions to student learning. Retrieved on 11/01/08 directly from http://www.cic.edu/projects_services/coops/cla.asp

Unit of Analysis: “One of the most important ideas in a research project is the unit of analysis. The unit of analysis is the major entity that you are analyzing in your study. For instance, any of the following could be a unit of analysis in a study”(Retrieved on 11/01/08 from http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/unitanal.php):• Individuals• Groups• Artifacts (books, photos, newspapers)• Geographical units (town, census tract, state)• Social interactions (dyadic relations, divorces, arrests)

Complete Chapter List

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Christopher S. Schreiner
Christopher S. Schreiner
Chapter 1
Melissa A. Dyehouse, John Y. Baek, Richard A. Lesh
This chapter describes a model for evaluating complex organizations or systems. The design assessment model the authors propose is a response to... Sample PDF
Multi-Tier Design Assessment in the Development of Complex Organizational Systems
Chapter 2
Hedva Lewittes
In this chapter critical thinking is assessed using two critical thinking learning outcomes that were required for the State University of New... Sample PDF
A Critical Thinking Rubric as the Basis of Assessment and Curriculum
Chapter 3
Suzanne Pieper, Erika Edwards, Brandon Haist, Walter Nolan
The purpose of this chapter is to review literature over the past ten years regarding technology tools that are being used in higher education to... Sample PDF
A Survey of Effective Technologies to Assess Student Learning
Chapter 4
John Baer, Sharon S. McKool
The Consensual Assessment Technique is a powerful tool used by creativity researchers in which panels of expert judges are asked to rate the... Sample PDF
Assessing Creativity Using the Consensual Assessment Technique
Chapter 5
Christine Charyton, Zorana Ivcevic, Jonathan A. Plucker, James C. Kaufman
This chapter discusses creativity assessment as a means for evaluating skills required in higher education. Creativity is assessed in the context of... Sample PDF
Creativity Assessment in Higher Education
Chapter 6
Asao B. Inoue
This chapter articulates writing assessment as a technology, theorized with three aspects (power, parts, and purpose), accounting for the ways in... Sample PDF
The Technology of Writing Assessment and Racial Validity
Chapter 7
Sheila S. Thompson, Annemarie Vaccaro
The purpose of this chapter is to address epistemological and methodological approaches to assessing assessment. The authors’ intent is to show how... Sample PDF
Qualitative and Quantitative Methods as Complementary Assessment Tools
Chapter 8
Teresa Flateby
The development of the Cognitive Level and Quality of Writing Assessment online system is described in this chapter. Beginning with needs identified... Sample PDF
Effects of Assessment Results on a Writing and Thinking Rubric
Chapter 9
Barbara D’Angelo, Barry Maid
Outcomes-based assessment provides data for programs to demonstrate student learning as a result of their enrollment in the program and to assess... Sample PDF
Assessing Outcomes in a Technical Communication Capstone
Chapter 10
Sonya Borton, Alanna Frost, Kate Warrington
As Jacqueline Jones Royster articulated at the 2006 Conference on College Composition and Communication, English departments are already assessing... Sample PDF
Assessing the Composition Program on Our Own Terms
Chapter 11
Joan Aitken
This chapter uses a case study to exemplify one approach to assessment of three instructional delivery formats: (a) online, (b) distance, satellite... Sample PDF
A Case Study of Instructional Delivery Formats
Chapter 12
Victor W. Brunsden
The author present a case-study of a classroom technique that allows assessment and some remediation of several shortcomings of college student... Sample PDF
Inverting the Remedial Mathematics Classroom with Alternative Assessment
Chapter 13
David A. Eubanks
This chapter describes Coker College’s subjective performance assessment program to rate student thinking and communication skills. It uses a... Sample PDF
A Case Study of Authentic Assessment
Chapter 14
P. Tokyo Kang, David Gugin
This chapter reports an outcomes assessment study conducted at the University of Guam. The assessment project was conducted during the 2006-07 and... Sample PDF
Outcomes Assessment in Japanese Language Instruction
Chapter 15
Barika Barboza, Frances Singh
This chapter describes an outcomes assessment study completed in a basic composition course at a small urban open admissions community college. The... Sample PDF
Assessing the Effectiveness of a Basic Writing Course
Chapter 16
Lorraine Gilpin, Yasar Bodur, Kathleen Crawford
Peer assessment holds tremendous potential to positively impact the development of preservice teachers. The purpose of this chapter is to describe... Sample PDF
Peer Assessment for Development of Preservice Teachers
Chapter 17
Charlotte Brammer, Rhonda Parker
In 2002, Samford University began working on a long-term learning assessment plan designed to evaluate its undergraduates’ competencies in written... Sample PDF
Workshops and E-Portfolios as Transformational Assessment
Chapter 18
Daniel F. Chambliss
This chapter describes how the trend favoring assessment initiatives of a system-wide scope such as program review and collegiate learning... Sample PDF
A Neglected Necessity in Liberal Arts Assessment: The Student as the Unit of Analysis
Chapter 19
Deirdre Pettipiece, Timothy Ray, Justin Everett
Perhaps due to its applicability as a performance of skill sets in virtually all disciplines, writing as a mechanism for measuring student success... Sample PDF
Redefining Writing Reality Multi-Modal Writing and Assessment
Chapter 20
Sean A. McKitrick
This chapter introduces methods that can be used to engage faculty in the assessment process, working within a shared governance structure in... Sample PDF
Engaging Faculty as a Strategic Choice in Assessment
Chapter 21
Steven M. Culver, Ray VanDyke
There is much in the assessment literature about the necessity of developing a culture of assessment and mandates from accrediting bodies include... Sample PDF
Developing a Receptive and Faculty-Focused Environment for Assessment
Chapter 22
John Wittman
This chapter argues that as primary stakeholders in writing program assessment, students and instructors need to be included proactively in... Sample PDF
New Collaborations for Writing Program Assessment
Chapter 23
Mya Poe
The study of racial-ethnic group differences on educational tests has yielded a substantial body of research internationally in the last decade. In... Sample PDF
Reporting Race and Ethnicity in International Assessment
Chapter 24
Joan Hawthorne, Tatyana Dumova, April Bradley, Daphne Pederson
In this chapter the authors describe a method developed to assess the outcome of a “cultural familiarity” general education goal. Challenges in... Sample PDF
Method Development for Assessing a Diversity Goal
About the Contributors