Assessing Institutional Learner Outcomes

By Fernando F. Padró and Marlene M. Hurley.

Published by Journal of the World Universities Forum

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

External reviews of higher education institutions focus on verifying or clarifying performance and results based on mission, criteria, or clearly stated or implied set(s) of standards. Moreover, there is increased interest in program-level accreditation to support and demonstrate enhanced quality; the review process at this level also is based on meeting internal and external criteria and/or standards. The Center for Psychology in Schools and Education (1997) recommends that effective learning should include multiple assessments for diagnostic, process, and outcome purposes. There are national and international associations who advocate certain assessment strategies to ensure appropriate documentation of student performance; however, because these are not involved in the accreditation or audit process the strategies may or may not be elements of the criteria used for review purposes. Organizational theory suggests that organizational behavior is based on previous reality generated from the stream of experience; previous experience argues for regulatory compliance for fear of sanction ranging from conditions, such as refusing reaffirmation or granting of initial approval. Indicators and metrics in this minimaxing regime prioritize data for performance reviews over accurately measuring student learning. Universities thus err on the side of caution, focusing more on traditional testing methodology instead of recognizing the usefulness of different assessment techniques as feedback that enhances student learning as well as documenting student learning itself. This paper discusses the tension between regulatory compliance and good design for student learning and its effect on assessment strategies. It also posits suggestions on how to mitigate some of the effects in order to balance institutional, faculty, and individual learner needs.

Keywords: Assessment Strategies, Learner Outcomes, Minimaxing Regime, Institutional Accreditation, Programmatic Accreditation, Quality Audit

Journal of the World Universities Forum, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp.65-72. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 584.071KB).

Dr. Fernando F. Padró

Associate Professor, Education Leadership and Special Education Department, Monmouth University, Tinton Falls, New Jersey, USA

Fernando Padró specializes in quality assurance, higher education systems, and faculty governance. His research interests include institutional quality assurance at universities, the role of accreditation, and organizational psychology of universities. He is a former Baldrige National Quality Award Examiner and is a Project AQIP reviewer for The Higher Learning Commission.

Dr. Marlene M. Hurley

Assistant Professor, Metropolitan State College, Empire State College, State University of New York, New York City, NY, USA

Dr. Hurley has more than 20 years as a science educator at the secondary and university levels. She teaches interdisciplinary education studies and science to degree-seeking adult education students at the State University of New York, Empire State College. Dr. Hurley also does science education consultations and program evaluations for informal science institutions, in addition to her ongoing interdisciplinary and historical research.

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