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“What We Learned About our Program that has Nothing to do with Student Learning Outcomes-An Argument
Unformatted Document Text:  Progressive Direct Assessment (PDA) to measure program learning outcomes. The approach is designed to involve all faculty in the department, be an integrated component of the existing educational process, and provide information about student learning outcomes from students’ first courses in the department to their final ones. II. Challenges and Approaches to Assessment 1. Assessment has been a part of the higher education landscape since the 1970s when the ‘accountability movement’ “led to a blizzard of reporting requirements imposed upon colleges and universities.” 2 As funding for education becomes even more tenuous, the pressure to demonstrate that students are achieving the learning objectives of a higher education has become more intense. In his task force report on assessment, Wahlke writes that: “the goal for study in a political science major is to maximize students’ capacity to analyze and interpret the significance and dynamics of political events and governmental processes.” 3 His task force argues that political science students should be civically engaged, understand politics and policies, and be prepared for careers in law, government, or political science. Wahlke notes that learning outcomes can be assessed through a variety of tools, and wants to be sure that the evaluation measures used should assess “not merely the quantity of information retained, but the coherence and interconnectedness of [students’] knowledge, and their analytic ability in dealing with new problems or situations.” 4 Because many departments are now required to provide results from assessment, there is the tendency to do assessment for assessment’s sake. What this means is that the process can be rushed and the results not integrated into a discussion on the curriculum in an effort to minimize faculty workload. Another important challenge to assessment has been faculty resistance. Many educators are reluctant to engage in a process that they find unnecessary or is a underhanded means of evaluating their performance. The problems inherent in the K-12 “No Child Left Behind” policy makes professors wary of “teaching 2 Julian, F.H., Chamberlain, D.H., and R.A. Seay 1991. “A National Status Report on Outcomes Assessment by Departments of Political Science.” PS: Political Science and Politics June: p. 206. 3 Wahlke, J. 1991. “Liberal Learning and the Political Science Major: A Report to the Profession.” PS: Political Science and Politics March: p. 49. 4 Wahlke, p. 56. 3

Authors: Cole, Alexandra. and DeMaio, Jennifer.
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Progressive Direct Assessment (PDA) to measure program learning outcomes. The
approach is designed to involve all faculty in the department, be an integrated component
of the existing educational process, and provide information about student learning
outcomes from students’ first courses in the department to their final ones.
II.
Challenges and Approaches to Assessment
1. Assessment has been a part of the higher education landscape since the
1970s when the ‘accountability movement’ “led to a blizzard of reporting
requirements imposed upon colleges and universities.”
As funding for
education becomes even more tenuous, the pressure to demonstrate that
students are achieving the learning objectives of a higher education has
become more intense.
In his task force report on assessment, Wahlke writes that: “the goal for study in a
political science major is to maximize students’ capacity to analyze and interpret the
significance and dynamics of political events and governmental processes.”
His task
force argues that political science students should be civically engaged, understand
politics and policies, and be prepared for careers in law, government, or political science.
Wahlke notes that learning outcomes can be assessed through a variety of tools, and
wants to be sure that the evaluation measures used should assess “not merely the quantity
of information retained, but the coherence and interconnectedness of [students’]
knowledge, and their analytic ability in dealing with new problems or situations.”
Because many departments are now required to provide results from assessment, there is
the tendency to do assessment for assessment’s sake. What this means is that the process
can be rushed and the results not integrated into a discussion on the curriculum in an
effort to minimize faculty workload. Another important challenge to assessment has been
faculty resistance. Many educators are reluctant to engage in a process that they find
unnecessary or is a underhanded means of evaluating their performance. The problems
inherent in the K-12 “No Child Left Behind” policy makes professors wary of “teaching
2
Julian, F.H., Chamberlain, D.H., and R.A. Seay 1991. “A National Status Report on Outcomes
Assessment by Departments of Political Science.” PS: Political Science and Politics June: p. 206.
3
Wahlke, J. 1991. “Liberal Learning and the Political Science Major: A Report to the Profession.” PS:
Political Science and Politics March: p. 49.
4
Wahlke, p. 56.
3


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