Wednesday, August 19, 2015

It's Time to Assess SLO Assessment

Student Learning Outcomes (SLO) Assessment began in the second term of the Bush Administration as one response to the growing discontent voiced by business people and parents, who thought that higher education was turning out graduates at a very high cost but without the skills and knowledge needed to be productive workers and citizens.  Accrediting agencies adopted the approach and it is gradually filtering into every level of higher education.  

Here at Ashland considerable resources were put towards assessment, both in dollars and in faculty, student, and administrators' time.  On pain of not being re-accredited, we were expected to develop a “culture of assessment” (as opposed, say, to a culture of learning).  But is there any solid evidence that SLO assessment actually improves student learning?  In this column, Dean Erik Gilbert argues that no one knows.   It is high time this question was asked and answered in a serious way.  Not everyone argues that SLO Assessment is completely useless, though there are some who do. The real questions are these: does the time, effort, and money spent on SLO assessment yield increments of learning commensurate with the costs?  And, does the approach to teaching, learning, and the human soul implied in assessment actually do some harm to teaching and learning?  Here are Erik Gilbert's conclusions: 
If advocates could point to evidence that good assessment has led to improvements that are external to the process itself — like changes in a college’s reputation, ranking, or employment prospects for its students — I suspect faculty would give it more support.
Assessment is one of those things that we keep telling ourselves will pay off if we could just get it right, but we never seem to get there. It’s time for us to demand that the accreditors who are driving assessment provide evidence that it offers benefits commensurate with the expense that goes into it. We should no longer accept on faith or intuition that learning-outcomes assessment has positive and consequential effects on our institutions — or students.
Here is the whole column:
Does Assessment Make Colleges Better? Who Knows?
By Erik Gilbert 
AUGUST 14, 2015

Last year the younger of my two sons went off to college. As we went through the search process, we looked at university and department websites, checked faculty research interests, looked for evidence of faculty involving students in their research, flinched at the prices, marveled at the climbing walls, and considered quality of the food on campus. Basically we did all the things a typical middle-class family would do in a college search, along with a few insider concerns like looking at faculty publications and grants and checking that the university libraries had at least one of my books. In retrospect one question that never crossed my mind was, "I wonder what this place’s assessment program is like?" I suspect I am not alone in this.
My lack of curiosity about assessment when making an important choice about my children’s education probably surprises no one, but it should. It’s unsurprising in that no one, higher-ed insider or not, ever seems to worry about this when choosing a college. No admissions officer ever touted his institution’s assessment results. No parent ever exclaimed, "Suzy just got into Prestigious College X. I hear they are just nailing their student learning outcomes!" But it’s still a little surprising in that I am a professor and an administrator who has been involved in assessment in various forms for a long time. I have been dutifully doing assessment in my classes almost since I started teaching a decade and half ago.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Is Torture Wrong?

That is the title of a debate, sponsored by the Alexander Hamilton Society, the Philosophy Club, and the Department of Political Science and History.  The event will feature Elbridge Colby from the Center for a New American Security. It will be held Tuesday April 21 at noon in the Conference Rooms of the Hawkins-Conard Student Center. Food and drinks will be provided and the event is free and open to the public. 

See also this announcement: 

Monday, April 6, 2015

URCA Symposium on Wednesday

Quite a few History and Political Science majors are giving presentations at the CAS Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Symposium on Wednesday (April 8).  There are good presentations on a whole variety of topics from Courtney Bailey, September Long, Brandon, Cook, John Case, Sam Mariscal, Hallie Carrino, and Joey Barretta.  Emily Cardwell is also giving a presentation, but as an English major rather than as a History major. Get out and support your fellow majors!  And you might also learn something from the presentations by students from other majors.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Nicholas Bartulovic Wins State Music Honor

Ok, so this is a musical achievement, but Nick Bartulovic is a history major and we are happy to call attention to his well-roundedness (besides, "everything is history," right?).  Nick, who is also a music minor, was awarded third place in the 2015 Ohio Federation of Music Clubs College Composers' Contest for his entry "Three Sketches for Piano."  Congratulations!

The statewide contest is offered annually by the OFMC's Foundation for the Advancement of Music to encourage the composition and performance of music, aid performing and creative artists regardless of citizenship, promote musical education, aid veterans in commencing and resuming musical careers, and grant scholarships to carry out the above.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

New Editor at Cleveland State Law Review

Elisa Leonard, who graduated from AU with a BA in Political Science and Public Relations, and who was also an Ashbrook Scholar, has just been elected Editor-in-Chief of the Cleveland State Law Review for 2015-2016. Before going to law school Elisa worked as the Executive Director of a political party in Northeast Ohio and as a congressional staffer for the United States House of Representatives where she handled community outreach and digital media for the office.

Political Science Alumna Testifies in US House Hearing

Alumna Rebeccah Heinrichs will be testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa regarding Iran's noncompliance with the IAEA.  The Hearing is scheduled for 2-5pm today and will probably be broadcast here: Foreign Affairs Hearing

Thursday, March 12, 2015

New Book by Professor Justin Lyons

Professor Lyons has just published a new book comparing Alexander the Great with Hernan Cortes on the model of Plutarch's Lives.  In case you can't read the text on the cover (see below), here is what Paul Cartledge of the University of Cambridge says about the book:
Like a self-proclaimed latter-day Plutarch, Lyons boldly goes where Alexander the Great of
Macedon and Hernán Cortés of Castile blazed their respective trails, comparing and contrasting the motives, methods, and achievements of the two conquering empire-builders who changed the political map of the world, and doing so within an illuminating overall moral-philosophical frame of reference and evaluation.