Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Assessment Quality in Higher Education

Greetings from the Inspire Center at the University of Canberra where Professor Geoff Scott is conducting a "Valid Assessment and Assuring Assessment Quality in Higher Education" workshop, sponsored by the Office of Learning and Teaching. But so far what he seems to be telling us is assessment 101: have assessment aligned to the learning outcomes and tell the students all this at the start of the course. This is something I learned in USQ Assessment, Evaluation and Learning (EDU5713) and discussed some of in "Australian University Education in 2025". Hopefully we will get into the promised high level policy matters soon.

Professor Scott went on to say that there should be peer review, multiple reference points to validate program reference outcomes. He used engineering as an example, but I suggest that like computer science, these disciplines have clear vocational requirements and there has been close cooperation between education institutions and the industry for decades. What I would like to know is what to do in the other discipline areas which are not so vocationally focused.

Professor Scott also recommended the book "Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace)" by Chade-Meng Tan. He characterized this as a mindfulness program developed by Google, but it was not clear to me what this had to do with the topic of assessment quality in Higher Education. Also I am not sure that this program is central to Google (not one I have talked to at Google has mentioned it).

Professor Scott is a dynamic speaker and he has an interesting project. But I had assumed we would hear about the results of his work and something new an innovative. So far this seems to be a moderately useful summary of the issues and challenges, but any competent senior academic will know this already (or could could find and read it in a few minutes on-line).

Professor Scott's workshop was promoted as being for "... particularly, Heads of School, Associate Deans (L&T) and Heads of Program (or Course)", but so far he seems to have only defined the problem (which is already well known from many studies) and has not yet started work on the solution. In conversation Professor Scott mentioned he had published research on the topic but did not cite this in his presentation. It may be that he needs to modify his presentation to suit a more research orientated audience.

At one point Professor Scott mentioned there was material from a book and the reference was in the notes. Unfortunately the references on screen and in the notes handed out are illegible, being in very small multi-colored text.

The Office of Learning and Teaching funds some excellent initiatives, but perhaps they need to set some standards for the way the results of the work are communicated. An example of a well run event was the IMSITE (Inspiring Mathematics and Science in Teacher Education) Dissemination forum.

While I can't recommend Professor Scott's workshop, he will be speaking again at University of Adelaide (23 April),  Victoria University (24 April) and Queensland University of Technology (27 April).

ps: One of the most useful outcomes of the event was to remind me of how good the Inspire Centre's teaching facilities are.  We are in the TEAL room which allows a blend of lecture and group style work seamlessly.

pps, 24 March: I found a copy of Professor Scott's slides from a 2014 workshop "Assuring the quality of achievement standards in H.E. - Educating capable graduates not just for today but for tomorrow". Here is the further reading and resources which had hypertext links (without the red text on a blue background, which makes the original unreadable):
  1. AAHE (1996); AAHE principles of good practice in assessing student learning
  2. Campbell. S (2008): Assessment reform as a stimulus for quality improvement in universityL&T: an Australian case study Outcomes of HE conference
  3. Hanover Research (2013): Best and innovative practices in HE Assessment, April 2013
  4. HEA (2012): A marked improvement: transforming assessment in HE, HEA, Newcastle, UK
  5. Krause, K.L & Scott, G (2014): A sector-wide model for assuring final year subject andprogram achievement standards through inter-university moderation, Office of Learning &
    Teaching, Australian Government, Sydney.

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