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Making Assessment Matter: Changing Cultures, Improving Teaching, and Transforming Departments
Unformatted Document Text:  Deardorff and Folger 10 otherwise be expected. In these very specific ways, assessment has been worthwhile. The key weakness of the approach is the amount of time and energy invested in the collection of data, the evaluation of findings, and the revision of programs. While the annual work is less labor-intensive, it does require an investment of departmental time, energy, and resources. To address the workload issue, the assessment coordinator could give individual professors responsibility for reviewing and analyzing one element of the raw data collected for program review (e.g., one writes a brief report scrutinizing the results of a majors survey, another examines publication patterns of the department relative to student credit hours generated). In undergraduate programs, it may be useful to integrate some of the survey development and interpretation into Methods (and other) courses. This lightens the load on the faculty, provides practical experience for the students, and engages students in the process of assessment. This process may, in some institutions, be of similar value with graduate students. In a departmental community where the labor can be shared, this is an ideal model—but it will not work for all departments or institutions. Grassroots Implementation—“Question-Based” Assessment How can assessment occur in a department where faculty are less invested in assessment as a departmental or personal objective? There are multiple ways by which departmental leadership might transform assessment from an external chore to an internal quest to answer important curricular and pedagogical questions. However, it is essential to demonstrate how the discoveries provided by the assessment process can guide departmental decision-making in a curricular review process. One way of garnering departmental investment is to help faculty perceive how they can benefit from assessment. However, every department differs as to their triggering issues (American Association for Higher Education 1992). For example, members of one department might be curious to discover why their students are not going to law school as frequently as in previous years. To answer this question they consider LSAT score and matriculation patterns, performance of their majors compared to other majors in the university, contributing alterations in the department over the years, and how their program differs from others that appear to be more successful. These findings allow them to make adjustments designed to improve the success rates of their students’ law school applications. In other political science departments, the salient issue may be how to improve the caliber of graduate students entering the

Authors: Deardorff, Michelle. and Folger, Paul.
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Deardorff and Folger 10
otherwise be expected. In these very specific ways, assessment has been worthwhile.
The key weakness of the approach is the amount of time and energy invested in the collection of data,
the evaluation of findings, and the revision of programs. While the annual work is less labor-intensive, it
does require an investment of departmental time, energy, and resources. To address the workload issue,
the assessment coordinator could give individual professors responsibility for reviewing and analyzing
one element of the raw data collected for program review (e.g., one writes a brief report scrutinizing the
results of a majors survey, another examines publication patterns of the department relative to student
credit hours generated). In undergraduate programs, it may be useful to integrate some of the survey
development and interpretation into Methods (and other) courses. This lightens the load on the faculty,
provides practical experience for the students, and engages students in the process of assessment. This
process may, in some institutions, be of similar value with graduate students. In a departmental
community where the labor can be shared, this is an ideal model—but it will not work for all departments
or institutions.
Grassroots Implementation—“Question-Based” Assessment
How can assessment occur in a department where faculty are less invested in assessment as a
departmental or personal objective? There are multiple ways by which departmental leadership might
transform assessment from an external chore to an internal quest to answer important curricular and
pedagogical questions. However, it is essential to demonstrate how the discoveries provided by the
assessment process can guide departmental decision-making in a curricular review process.
One way of
garnering departmental investment is to help faculty perceive how they can benefit from assessment.
However, every department differs as to their triggering issues (American Association for Higher
Education 1992). For example, members of one department might be curious to discover why their
students are not going to law school as frequently as in previous years. To answer this question they
consider LSAT score and matriculation patterns, performance of their majors compared to other majors
in the university, contributing alterations in the department over the years, and how their program differs
from others that appear to be more successful. These findings allow them to make adjustments designed
to improve the success rates of their students’ law school applications. In other political science
departments, the salient issue may be how to improve the caliber of graduate students entering the


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