Academic Administration

Transformative Assessment

From its inception, members of the Council for Advancement of Student Learning have acted on the premise that faculty and staff at UMD have used a variety of assessment techniques to improve student learning.  The focus, then, would be on creating a system that would identify common outcomes across multiple programs that could be systematically examined to improve learning on the campus as a whole.  Further, this would require some structure and consistency to the ways that programs were stating outcomes, gathering data, and reporting on feedback and change.  As CASL explored best practices in the field of assessment, a book was chosen for widespread reading in order to bring a common framework to the work of CASL.  The book chosen was Promoting Integrated and Transformataive Assessment: A Deeper  Focus on Student Learning, by Catherine M. Wehlburg.  All members of CASL, the Vice Chancellor for Academic Administration, the Deans of the five colleges, and various other individuals, have read Wehlburg's book.  A synopsis of main ideas from the book are presented here. 

On embedded assessment.....The information that they [faculty] have collected on student learning has been used to measure an individual student’s performance in class rather than looking at multiple students across time to see how well they are doing in general with regard to departmental student learning outcomes.  There is an opportunity to use existing student work products to evaluate the student for a grade in the class and aggregate those data by looking across students to see what they are learning as a group.  By integrating assessment with teaching activities, assessment data can be used for what this information was originally intended:  to know how well students are doing and to use that knowledge to make changes in curriculum, pedagogy, or course design.

“….assessment techniques are of little use unless and until local academic cultures value self-examination, reflection, and continuous improvement”  (citing Angelo, 1999, p. 5)

The primary purpose of any assessment plan is focused on student learning; accountability is secondary. 

Transformative assessment is a process that will inform decision making that is appropriate, meaningful, sustainable, flexible and ongoing and will use data for improvement with the potential for substantive change.  An assessment system must be:

Principles of embedded assessment systems

Pillars of transformative assessment

Campus climate

The MAJOR TENET of transformative assessment is that the outcomes must be created by those who will use the resulting data.