Avoiding a Tragedy of the Commons
Chapter 9: Seven Red Herrings About Higher Education Assessment
9. Seven red herrings about higher education assessment Why are many stakeholders in higher education reluctant to accept standardized assessments?87 By standardized assessment I mean the questions, conditions of administering, scoring procedures, and interpretations are consistent and are administered and scored in a predetermined, standardized manner. The list of skeptical stakeholders includes faculty, administrators, boards of trustees, accrediting groups, and membership associations. I will state the most familiar arguments used against standardized assessments in higher education that have confused participants on each side of the debate about the need for and the possibility of new benchmarks of student learning outcomes. We do need appropriate standardized assessments to permit faculty and administrators to signal how well they are doing in comparison with other higher education institutions. Most importantly, we need good standardized assessment instruments to encourage the development of assessment strategies that directly assist faculty to improve teaching and learning in a systemic, continuous improvement way.88 In fact, appropriate standardized instruments that permit comparison are a necessary condition for progress in developing a more systematic approach to assessment in higher education. However, nuance is important here. While standardized tests are necessary they are not sufficient for assessment to be integrated with teaching and learning within institutions. Formative assessments developed by faculty at institutions are also critically important. Why has this view not yet prevailed? If the responses to the seven red herrings are convincing, why do they constantly recur? I conclude this chapter with speculations about the reasons for this....
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