Assessment at Victoria College

Oh, Victoria College… we’re gonna have such a wonderful assessment together.” (with apologies to the writers of The Imitation Game)


Victoria College, being, naturally, a Texas college, is subject to six core competencies. These competencies are: Communication, Critical Thinking, Empirical & Quantitative Skills, Teamwork, Personal Responsibility, and Social Responsibility.

These skills or competencies are something in which all our students should have demonstrated proficiency by the time they complete Victoria College. Of course, we never really have all students together at once, so we tend to find them living in various sections of various courses.

All core courses are required to provide an educational environment where proficiency in communication and critical thinking are developed by students.

This semester, we’re attempting to measure such things via our regularly scheduled assessment activities.

Faculty control assignments. We always have, and we always will. What we ask is that faculty develop or use assignments which might give the campus deeper insight into various facets of our students’ skills in communication or critical thinking. These assignments should be meaningful to the course and course section of which they are part. It would be odd for my statistics course to ask for an essay about plot holes in the Twilight series, just as it might be strange for our literature courses to ask about null hypothesis significance testing.

When faculty give students tasks to complete and ideas to explore, we call such objects assignments. When a Scoring Team collects such assignments (that have specific course level objectives such as teaching about plot holes or motivating hypothesis tests), they need to serve an additional purpose beyond the primary objective(s) of the assignment. We give them a different name to signify the different purpose we have in using them.

A Scoring Team (Victoria College has six such teams) must look at these artifacts from a particular classroom on a particular day, and attempt to gain some insight into the communication abilities or the critical thinking skills of an entire campus. These samples of student work are no longer really assignments. Yes, they must meet those objectives. It would be a waste of faculty and student time if they did not! But they become windows into the core skills we ask all our students to develop. And a Scoring Team has to be somewhat separate from the process – we’re not meant to micromanage classrooms.

Too often, I think it is easy to see the flaws in a new process rather than the potential. The power of a liberal education is that we become cross-disciplinary and open-minded thinkers. These cross-disciplinary scoring teams aren’t meant to be assessing how a mathematics student is doing in mathematics. Rather, they’re meant to be assessing how a student who happens to be in mathematics is doing at thinking critically.

Will the process be perfect the first time through? Of course not! Will the Scoring Teams bungle sample collection, will students be given odd instructions for wonky assignments as faculty try their best to adapt to new rubrics from state coordinating boards, and will there be some rampant chaos? You bet! Does this mean we’re going to give up? Never!

To tie into my post from last week, we need to be asking the right questions. One of those questions is “How are our students doing?” We need answers, and we need answers that are not anecdotal. Some of the questions we’re asking are starting to be the right ones. Some of the data we’re getting begins to track the right questions. Now we just have the munge-work to get this running more smoothly.

What sorts of questions or challenges are you facing with our Texas Core Assessment?

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professorwiley

Matt Wiley is a tenured, associate professor of mathematics with awards in both mathematics education and honour student engagement. He earned an assortment of degrees in computer science, business, and pure mathematics from the University of California and Texas A&M systems. He is the director of quality enhancement at Victoria College, assisting in the development and implementation of a comprehensive assessment program to enhance institutional performance outcomes. A programmer, a published author, a mathematician, and a transformational leader, Matt has always melded his passion for writing with his joy of logical problem solving and data science. From the boardroom to the classroom, he enjoys finding dynamic ways to partner with interdisciplinary and diverse teams to make complex ideas and projects understandable and solvable.

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