Education Leadership Conference

Evaluating student achievement of expected learning outcomes should be treated as evidence-based research on the teaching and learning process, said Bill Hill, PhD, director of the Kennesaw State University Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, during a 2006 ELC session on assessment in undergraduate education.

"I want us to begin to think about assessment in the same way as [APA] is looking at evidence-based therapy," said Hill. "Let's think about what we're doing in assessment as evidence-based teaching and learning--that we want to know we're accomplishing what we're intending to accomplish, and we're basing that on evidence."

Conceptualizing classroom assessment in this way represents a departure from solely using student course evaluations to measure the effectiveness of a particular course, said Hill. Gathering and using evidence of student learning is more valid than asking students if they're pleased with a course or a program of study as a whole, he noted.

"Although these course and senior exit surveys often include self-reports of learning, that doesn't objectively answer the question of whether they really learned anything," said Hill. "They can be happy and not learn anything."

Hill summarized a proposed model of quality benchmarks for undergraduate psychology programs currently under peer review for publication. Co-authored with Dana S. Dunn, PhD, Maureen McCarthy, PhD, Suzanne Baker, PhD, Jane S. Halonen, PhD, and Hill, the model suggests evaluating programs as underdeveloped, developing, effective or distinguished. For example, an assessment domain focuses on whether they have a formal assessment-planning program and whether they are gathering assessment-related data and using it to improve their program. An underdeveloped program, for example, would lack an assessment-planning program, and a distinguished program would engage in continuous, vigorous and consensual assessment planning.

Hill called for the dissemination of publications and presentations based on assessments programs are conducting. Although other fields are also turning to evidence-based assessment of learning outcomes, psychology may be the only discipline that has sponsored a discipline-specific conference on assessment best practices: The 2002 Measuring Up: Best Practices in Psychology Education Conference, which resulted in the book, "Measuring Up: Educational Assessment Challenges and Practices in Psychology" (APA, 2004).

"As a field, psychology is ahead of the curve in this area, and can assist other disciplines using the knowledge we've gained," Hill said. He cited the Assessment CyberGuide for Learning Goals and Outcomes in the Undergraduate Psychology Major (available at Assesment Cyberguide and described in "Knowing what to teach, and assessing what's been taught") as a useful resource. "The CyberGuide has become a reference guide for many other disciplines," he noted.

--E. Packard