External Drivers: NCC and Outcomes Assessment

Even though a project may be firmly grounded in a bottom-up, faculty-driven environment, you can’t underestimate the power of accreditation agencies and legislative mandates.

The link between Outcomes Assessment and ePortfolio is still developing at NCC. On an institutional level, the General Education Taskforce used ePortfolio (Digication) to assess student writing in one upper level course. The plan is to expand this assessment on a regular basis. On a programmatic level, Early Childhood Education, Physical Therapy Assistant, and the Respiratory Therapy programs have integrated ePortfolio as part of their assessment. All faculty involved have been trained in terms of ePortfolio as a learning/reflective tool, though currently their use is being driven accreditation processes.

Setting the Stage

As of fall 2013, much of NCC’s work is focused to meet two external bodies, both of which require us to meet fall 2014 deadlines: One is our New England Assessment of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) self-study and the other is the Transfer and Articulation Policy (TAP) the state of Connecticut mandated to streamline a core curriculum among the 16 state colleges and universities. These external forces afford us the opportunity to make some headway with our institutional Outcomes Assessment. For the last five years our GenEd Task Force (consisting primarily of faculty with dean involvement) has been working on this project, but is doing so without any major funding (Title III, Title V, etc.) to support these efforts in a union environment.

Vision and Next Steps

Certainly connecting outcomes assessment with ePortfolio would help scaling it, because doing so would require faculty to have students upload relevant artifacts. Our current self-study process may, in fact, help to drive us toward a more definitive link between eP and outcomes assessment. The challenge is that this driver for scaling uses ePortfolio as merely a repository, without the reflection and learning processes that most ePortfolio practitioners value so highly. However, we recognize that the self-study process itself might provide opportunities for us to emphasize the reflective/learning components of ePortfolio. Specifically, if the accreditation process can be framed as a learning process itself, as part of the necessary cycle of inquiry/reflection/integration, faculty and staff might be more likely to see the value in that cycle.

To be clear, the guiding principles of inquiry/reflection/integration have been communicated at length as a necessary part of assessment for learning (vs. assessment of learning), and many individuals have taken part in a variety of New England Educational Assessment Network (NEEAN) Dialogues on assessment to increase the shared understanding of the feedback loop. Additionally, as an Achieve the Dream school, data-informed decisions have become status quo. Nevertheless, if reflection is to become an integral part of assessment, it is important to provide encouragement and support for those involved in the process.

To help facilitate a growing understanding of the value of and need for assessment for learning, we plan to run a series of workshops and presentations in a variety of venues, ranging from short “brown bags” or roundtables, to departmental and staff meetings, and also to capitalize on the accreditation review process itself. We envision having some of the stronger ePortfolio users (in terms of use, passion, and fortitude) model how they use ePortfolio for assessment, with particular focus on reflection and integration. Most faculty understand the principle of inquiry, but taking the next steps is a huge leap. By modeling and demonstrating the process in a kind of “thinking aloud” presentation, we will highlight how the entire feedback loop is less focused on the individual instructor and more focused on the students and their learning. Keeping the bigger vision of student learning in focus is central to understanding the effectiveness of the guiding principles. With that in mind, we will include student voices as part of the workshop presentations.

Partners in Crime! Lois Aime & Janie Burkhardt

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