For the past two days, with jet lag in hand, I forged ahead to the IUPUI Assessment Institute 2014 (#indyai14) downtown in Indianapolis. This is the first time I’ve ever attended this meeting, and was interested to learn more about assessment.
For those of you not entrenched in higher education geekery, assessment is required in various ways for accreditation and re-accreditation of colleges, universities and professional schools. In my world, for example, Butler University (the day job) is accredited, and then the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences is accredited via each of its two professional programs (there is a separate accrediting body for pharmacy and another for physician assistants).
So, back to assessment. Assessment is necessary for the benchmarking and evidence of student learning on college campuses. Assessment can be everything from taking a test after learning material, to giving a performance critiqued by professionals, to surveys, and assignments. Why I decided to go to this conference was this new journal I’m working on, BU Well, so that I can learn how to better assess student writing (hint: not that easy to do).
Here’s some of the best stuff I learned at this conference over the past two days:
1. Pharmacy is ahead of most professional programs on assessment – there was one session I attended that compared nursing assessment to pharmacy program assessment. Pharmacy had a wider variety of forms of assessment than nursing. Where I think pharmacy is still NOT good at assessing are the new standards on entrepreneurship, leadership, and self awareness. A gal I connected with after the session suggested the student leadership practices inventory (SLPI)…but looking this up, there’s a fee, so I have no idea if it is decent or not for pharmacy. I’m checking the entrepreneurship ed world for good tools.
2. The Writing Across the Curriculum Clearinghouse at CO State - This is wac. Seriously. You can go in, type in any profession to the search bar, and get info on writing across the curriculum in specific professional eduction programs. SO HELPFUL and probably THE BEST nugget of info I received at this entire conference relevant to this new writing venture I’m trying at BU. This nugget was parlayed by Dr. Barbara Walvoord up at ND – and she wrote a book on How to Improve and Assess Student Writing – by that title.
3. ePortfolios are. Everywhere. - There was an entire track dedicated to students creating electronic portfolios as a longitudinal assessment of their learning in a program. While we grew our own ePortfolio in WordPress, other schools were using sites like Wix, and in other paid databases. I still have a few areas of intrigue and concern here. First, what about copyright of images, music licenses, etc., when it comes to ePortfolios? Second, can students carry this information with them and supplement it after school without incurring subscription fees and ensuring some quasi-privacy? Third, do ePortfolios REALLY help students get jobs and gigs? Last, badges within portfolios–has anyone figured these out yet relative to pharmacy practice?
4. STEM education learning struggles: back to basics – One of the very first breakout sessions I attended was by Dr. Saundra McGuire at Louisiana State University, where she teaches students in STEM how to LEARN (typically after the first exam of the semester, when she has a captive audience). This includes basics like teaching students about Bloom’s Taxonomy, and get them to think via metacognition, about how they individually think and learn. First, this kind of seems obvious to me, but then again, the first time any prof ever taught Bloom’s in class for me was in law school. So, perhaps we need to talk about this in class. Second, my favorite form of teaching is “creating” which is at the top of the pyramid of Bloom’s – and frankly, that’s the best place I learn as a student as well. Note to self: go back to retrace Bloom’s if anyone is struggling.
5. I need to get more charrette assignments in my classes – From the art and design world, a charrette was given as an example several times in several sessions. I think it is basically working in small groups on design solutions to problems. (I’ll let the masterful wikipedia explain it better than I can in a day.) Design thinking is one of the BIGGEST ideas missing from pharmacy programs that I can see these days, and if I can get ahead of this curve for my students–getting them thinking about identifying problems and turning them into opportunities with solutions–I think our program will remain ahead of the curve. The art folks also do a lot of high stakes performance/Shark Tank-like assessments – I use those, and I’ll be using them even more now.
That’s all I have from the last 2 days. I’m glad I attended this meeting. I learned a lot…about learning!