Assessment

Unfortunately, most of the conversation about assessment in higher education has been about external demands from legislators, policy makers, and state education officials. This helped create a sense of 'us versus them' with well-founded concerns about standardization, accountability, performance-based evaluation, and loss of academic freedom. We have the opportunity, however, to be active participants in the conversation and demonstrate that we can do assessment on our terms. In fact, that is the title of a 2009 policy brief from the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) - Assessment on Our Own Terms.

We have the opportunity to demonstrate to external audiences how we assess student learning, to be part of the conversation, and to help direct our future. If we do not act, we will be acted upon. Let us not be mistaken: We are being held accountable for what we say our students are learning. But, we are also in a position of power. We have the opportunity to demonstrate how the kinds of assessment taking place at MassArt can be a model beyond our university. Students at MassArt envision, create, critique, present, persist, fail, fail again, and ultimately succeed. They do this while learning to collaborate, cooperate, become resourceful, fearless, and develop voice and passion. The structures of critique, review, portfolio, and capstone are inherent to our work and are also some of the most rigorous and meaningful forms from which to assess student learning and achievement. We have much to offer the broader conversation, but remaining silent would be to our detriment.

Assessment should facilitate student learning. It should help teachers clarify goals and objectives. Students should understand what is expected of them and how they are to be evaluated. This extends the communication among students and faculty members as students learn to take on the professional language and make judgments about quality. Good assessment also increases the information available about student learning so that faculty members can adjust their teaching as a course progresses.

This section of Inside MassArt provides information and resources to assist faculty members and departments to articulate, review, develop, and implement assessments. In addition, you may always contact me to assist in these efforts.

Dan Serig
Dean of Academic Programs

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