From Associate Dean Kevin Stoker

Associate Dean Kevin Stoker
In academia, the word “assessment” elicits a variety of responses. State legislators and bureaucrats view it as way to hold university faculty accountable, while academic governing councils see it as a way to measure a university’s effectiveness. Each university has hired full-time staff to oversee assessment and rally college and department leaders to the cause of measuring student outcomes. Department chairpersons gather qualitative and quantitative data to show that students are learning what they’re supposed to learn and then enter that data into a university database.

I’ve turned in thick piles of data for each department in our college and wondered whether anyone will ever look at the report again. We don’t want these efforts to be nothing more than going through the motions to check off a box.

So our college has been reexamining our student learning outcomes and asking ourselves just what knowledge, skills and attributes the ideal student of our college should possess when he or she graduates.

These are some of the qualities we’ve identified:

When asked what qualities they felt our ideal graduate should possess, members of our advisory council gave the following suggestions: Innovation, creativity, an individual brand, interdisciplinary knowledge and expertise, and the ability to juggle multiple projects at the same time. They also identified strong communications skills, particularly the ability to write well, stand up and make a point, and sell ideas. The advisory board emphasized the importance of building a professional portfolio through writing for the student newspaper and doing professional internships.

Other qualities dealt with the student’s personality: A sense of humor, good listening skills, a winning attitude, confidence, curiosity, and a passion for life.

As we move forward on assessment, we’ll need to incorporate these ideas into our college, department, and course objectives. Our challenge will be to use these simple outcome statements to describe the complex knowledge and skills our students need to succeed.

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