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2 hours ago by derishus
The Misguided Drive to Measure ‘Learning Outcomes’ - The New York Times
"It seems that the pressure to assess student learning outcomes has grown most quickly at poorly funded regional universities that have absorbed a large proportion of financially disadvantaged students, where profound deficits in preparation and resources hamper achievement. Research indicates that the more selective a university, the less likely it is to embrace assessment. Learning outcomes assessment has become one way to answer the question, “If you get unprepared students in your class and they don’t do well, how does that get explained?” Mr. Eubanks at Furman University told me.

When Erik Gilbert, a professor of history at Arkansas State University, reached the end of his World Civilization course last fall, he dutifully imposed the required assessment: an extra question on the final exam that asked students to read a document about Samurai culture and answer questions using knowledge of Japanese history. Yet his course focused on “cross-cultural connections, trade, travel, empire, migration and bigger-scale questions, rather than area studies,” Mr. Gilbert told me. His students had not studied Japanese domestic history. “We do it this way because it satisfies what the assessment office wants, not because it addresses concerns that we as a department have.”

Mr. Gilbert became an outspoken assessment skeptic after years of watching the process fail to capture what happens in his classes — and seeing it miss the real reasons students struggle. “Maybe all your students have full-time jobs, but that’s something you can’t fix, even though that’s really the core problem,” he said. “Instead, you’re expected to find some small problem, like students don’t understand historical chronology, so you might add a reading to address that. You’re supposed to make something up every semester, then write up a narrative” explaining your solution to administrators.

Here is the second irony: Learning assessment has not spurred discussion of the deep structural problems that send so many students to college unprepared to succeed. Instead, it lets politicians and accreditors ignore these problems as long as bureaucratic mechanisms appear to be holding someone — usually a professor — accountable for student performance.

All professors could benefit from serious conversations about what is and is not working in their classes. But instead they end up preoccupied with feeding the bureaucratic beast. “It’s a bit like the old Soviet Union. You speak two languages,” said Frank Furedi, an emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent in Britain, which has a booming assessment culture. “You do a performance for the sake of the auditors, but in reality, you carry on.”

Yet bureaucratic jargon subtly shapes the expectations of students and teachers alike. On the first day of class, my colleagues and I — especially in the humanities, where professors are perpetually anxious about falling enrollment — find ourselves rattling off the skills our courses offer (“Critical thinking! Clear writing!”), hyping our products like Apple Store clerks.

I teach intellectual history. Of course that includes skills: learning to read a historical source, interpret evidence and build an argument. But cultivating historical consciousness is more than that: It means helping students immerse themselves in a body of knowledge, question assumptions about memory and orient themselves toward current events in a new way.

If we describe college courses as mainly delivery mechanisms for skills to please a future employer, if we imply that history, literature and linguistics are more or less interchangeable “content” that convey the same mental tools, we oversimplify the intellectual complexity that makes a university education worthwhile in the first place. We end up using the language of the capitalist marketplace and speak to our students as customers rather than fellow thinkers. They deserve better.

“When kids come from backgrounds where they’re the first in their families to go to college, we have to take them seriously, and not flatter them and give them third-rate ideas,” Mr. Furedi told me. “They need to be challenged and inspired by the idea of our disciplines.” Assessment culture is dumbing down universities, he said: “One of the horrible things is that many universities think that giving access to nontraditional students means turning a university into a high school. That’s not giving them access to higher education.”

Here is the third irony: The value of universities to a capitalist society depends on their ability to resist capitalism, to carve out space for intellectual endeavors that don’t have obvious metrics or market value.

Consider that holy grail of learning outcomes, critical thinking — what the philosopher John Dewey called the ability “to maintain the state of doubt and to carry on systematic and protracted inquiry.” Teaching it is not a cheap or efficient process. It does not come from trying to educate the most students at the lowest possible cost or from emphasizing short, quantifiable, standardized assignments at the expense of meandering, creative and difficult investigation.

Producing thoughtful, talented graduates is not a matter of focusing on market-ready skills. It’s about giving students an opportunity that most of them will never have again in their lives: the chance for serious exploration of complicated intellectual problems, the gift of time in an institution where curiosity and discovery are the source of meaning.

That’s how we produce the critical thinkers American employers want to hire. And there’s just no app for that."
learning  learningoutcomes  outcomes  academia  assessment  evaluation  quantification  measurement  accountability  highered  highereducation  2018  mollywhorthen  criticalthinking  johndewey  metrics  inquiry  efficiency  standardization  standardizedtesting  capitalism  content  complexity  howwelearn  howwethink  knowledge  education  lcproject  openstudioproject  unschooling  deschooling  schools  pedagogy  teaching  skepticism  bureaucracy  corporatism  corporatization  inequality 
10 hours ago by robertogreco
Academic Books of Interest: Development Resources - Kardia Group LLC
Meetings Matter: 8 Powerful Strategies for Remarkable Conversations
academia 
13 hours ago by che_kid
The Misguided Drive to Measure ‘Learning Outcomes’ - The New York Times
Without thoughtful reconsideration, learning assessment will continue to devour a lot of money for meager results.
assessment  academia  evaluation 
16 hours ago by MF_reads
She Wrote a Farewell Letter to Colleagues. Then 80,000 People Read It. - The Chronicle of Higher Education
Either we’re giving Ph.D.s to a bunch of people who were actually not good scholars, or we are losing a lot of human capital and a lot of future knowledge production.
academia 
yesterday by MF_reads
William James - The PhD Octopus
"America is thus a nation rapidly drifting towards a state of things in which no man of science or letters will be accounted respectable unless some kind of badge or diploma is stamped upon him, and in which bare personality will be a mark of outcast estate."
academia  education  history  writing 
2 days ago by wyclif
Letters [Aug '15]
I have a theory that the basic difference between liberals and conservatives comes down to a question that economists have labeled, pejoratively, the "fallacy of composition.” As I recall, this is the idea that rules we apply to individual behavior, with good results, can have bad results when those rules are applied to society as a whole. If I give free food to a starving woman in Africa, I have performed a moral act and followed the teachings of Jesus and other religious leaders. If my government sends massive food shipments to a region of Africa on a regular basis, then the farmers there cannot sell their crops at the price they need, so they do not plant new crops, and the famine is perpetuated. But at least then the NGO's have something to do to justify staying at four-star hotels. (Sorry, even I am tempted to an ad hominem.)

It seems to me that liberals too often apply standards appropriate for individual behavior to collective challenges. Conservatives too often apply standards appropriate for an economy to their own personal behavior. Liberals need to read Milton Friedman. Conservatives need to serve food to homeless people.
[...]
If Reed were to become more internally diverse, this would actually *reduce* diversity at the level of the American educational system: Reed would have become that much more like all the other places. Our country as a whole profits from having Reeds as well as Brigham Youngs, and would be impoverished—made less diverse—if every school tried to make its internal structure a microcosm of the external diversity in the world.
[...]
The Quest does not currently abide by an open publishing policy, as "Uncivil Discourse" maintains, and its editors have openly rejected articles on political grounds. In fact, the Quest has leapt to the defense of Harvard President Larry Summers' outrageous sexism; in this regard, at least, it is well to the right of both the New York Times and the Harvard student body newspaper.
[...]
Whatever isolation I experienced at Reed was mostly self-imposed, as I worked through my beliefs, until I could articulate what I felt without feeling embarrassed. But I never felt “victimized” because I always seemed to blunder into friendships and associations that encouraged me to speak my mind. No one ever mocked or belittled me. Quite the contrary, everyone I met tried to engage me with humor, challenge me to think my beliefs through, or guide me with some sort of useful object lesson.

As a result, four years later I graduated a “flaming” liberal, as my Dad liked to say, although the Colonel never used the “L”-word in mixed company. And all I can say now is: “I think whatever gods may be for my radicalization at Reed!”
[...]
I was one of three Catholics at Reed and could not have felt more comfortable or respected. Commons’ Friday menu of steamed halibut was especially unpopular. My friends would file past my table shaking their trays in my face, a gesture I regarded as a peculiarly Reed-style term of endearment.

We had a Young Republican Club. There were, as I recall, six members out of a student body of 800. There were about 300 Young Democrats, who loved and courted the Young Republicans, because they were the ones who owned cars and could transport Democrats to off-campus beer parties.

My senior year brought a series of controversial speakers to campus. The civil rights movement was boiling, and Gov. Ross Barnett of Mississippi arrived. He was an outspoken proponent of segregation and was received courteously, although not warmly. ...

Another speaker in the series was the leader of the seven American Nazis known to exist at the time. As I understand it, the majority of students at Reed during my time were of Jewish descent. Reed had no quota. Apparently, six percent was the upper limit for Jewish admissions at comparable schools. In 1965, these students were likely to be the children, nieces, nephews, or grandchildren, if not siblings, of Holocaust victims. The speaker was again received with rigorous courtesy. He fielded penetrating questions not very ably. Reed certainly treated this fellow better than his own family: an uncle ran him off his property with the blast of a shotgun to his heels when he shows up in uniform one day.

As to the general quality of discourse on campus, I do not recall hearing mockery of any person, idea, or thing. World-class snootiness was the predominant style of aggressive discussion, and I miss it terribly.
ReedMag  academia 
2 days ago by nightcrawler

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