Towards a shared understanding of “assessment”

Assessment Reconsidered: Institutional Effectiveness for Student Success
By Richard P. Keeling, Andrew F. wall, Ric Underhile, Gwendolyn J. Dungy
Published by the International Center for Student Success and Institutional Accountability

Reviewed by Deanne Fisher, University of Toronto

This pithy little publication follows up where the influential Learning Reconsidered and Learning Reconsidered II left off — that is, now that we understand learning, how do we assess how and where it happens? The authors are careful to establish that Assessment Reconsidered is not a how-to manual. So, for those of you who are sold on the importance of assessment and looking for the step-by-step guide to implementing your plan, this book will not meet your needs. However, if you are looking for a thorough, yet succinct, explanation of the fundamentals of assessment in higher education that you can share with colleagues, faculty, and upper levels of your administration, Assessment Reconsidered is ideal.

The book is full of really powerful concepts that sound deceptively simple but, in practice, are really difficult to implement. First and foremost: institutional assessment is about evaluating our effectiveness as educators, rather than the effectiveness of our students in demonstrating what they’ve learned. In other words, it’s about giving us a letter grade, rather than assigning one to the student. For many faculty members, this is a new and different concept. Assessment Reconsidered does a reasonably good job of explaining this and getting us to speak the same language.

The chapter on Rigor in Assessment is particularly helpful. The authors provide a useful and reasonable explanation of how to ensure results are credible and informative and avoid falling into methodology paralysis that can result when we confuse our work with research.

At only 100+ pages, and a cost of $24.95 US ($19.95 for NASPA members), Assessment Reconsidered is probably worth having a few copies around in the office to share with project assessment teams, senior administrators, and as a useful reminder of principles and fundamentals when assessment plans run amok.

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