Board assesses individual departments

On Jan. 11, Eastern University faculty members attended a workshop regarding Student Learning Assessment. Faculty members sat with their department and began the preliminary stages of assessing their departments.

Dr. Doug Trimble, coordinator of the Student Learning Assessment Committee and member of the psychology department, said assessment is based on the university’s mission statement. “This is a beautiful mission statement,” Trimble said after reading a segment of the mission statement, “the question is, are we doing it?”

Trimble explained that a committee was created during the 2007 spring semester to assess student learning, which is required for Eastern to remain an accredited university. Eastern receives accreditation from Middlestates Commission on Higher Education.

“Every ten years a team [from Middlestates] will come and visit,” Trimble said. The team will then receive binders of information for fourteen different standards, and student learning is one part of them, according to Trimble.

Each general education department at Eastern is now required to assess its own department’s success in student learning. There are many different ways this can be done, Trimble said. Assessments can be completed through surveys, standardized tests, writing samples and portfolios. Each department will make changes according to the results they gather from assessing students. These changes could be made in curriculum or teaching methods.

Trimble expressed that some faculty members see the assessment as extra work. Dr. Dwight N. Peterson, chair of the department of Christian Studies and professor of New Testament said, “There are a variety of judgments on the faculty about how much time and energy should be put into measurable outcomes or goals.”

Trimble believes that assessment is a good way to be accountable not only to Middlestates, but also to students, parents and alumni.

Other faculty members are skeptical of Student Learning Assessment for other reasons. Dr. Carl Mosser, assistant professor of biblical studies, said, “I’m in favor of assessing what we do, but I get a little nervous to quantify the outcomes.” According to Mosser, assessment could promote objectivity while masking over subjectivity, and there could be a pressure for numbers, rather than a broad range of assessment. “Humanities can’t be assessed in a test,” Mosser said.

However, assessment is not new to Eastern. There are various departments that have been required by companies or councils to complete assessment. The social work department has been assessing for about twenty years and is required to do so by the Council on Social Work Education. Dr. Edward Kuhlmann, professor of social work and chair of the social work department, spoke on a panel during the Jan. 11 meeting explaining to the faculty members who have not been previously required to implement assessment effective ways to assess learning.

When asked if he liked assessment, Kuhlmann said, “I’m not a true believer. I know we have to do it. I know we’re in an area in our society where people want to see results. In America and the Western world we’re very scientific-oriented.”

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