The joys of assessment


If you don’t know where you are headed, you’ll probably end up someplace else.

~Douglas J. Eder, Ph.D

Assessment is important. It informs teaching and supports learning.  You should do it. No, you must do it. That’s the sum of what I gleaned in my training as an educator, so when my colleague turned to the professor and I to define summative assessment versus formative assessment, I had to think for a second. Luckily, the professor answered first…and then turned to me to make sure she got it right. Apparently, I look like I know things.

When one gets into the swing of teaching, the textbook definitions aren’t necessarily the things that stick out. You just get a feel for it and you know, at gut level, why you do the things you do. Even when you’re making changes to strategies and creating new ones. But it’s still necessary to return to square one and ensure instruction is happening for a purpose. And that the purpose has been clearly defined.

For what it’s worth, formative assessment happens during the learning process and can be informal, while summative assessments is post-assessment. It happens at the conclusion of a learning unit and consists of formal measures for learning. Most individuals are familiar with summative assessment under the label of standardized testing, but it can be more than that.

Another type of assessment is programmatic assessment, which involves looking at the instructional structure of a program and determining whether instruction within that program is meeting the goals identified as outcomes.

Last semester, I sat through a couple of different types of assessment meetings: curriculum mapping, program assessment rubric planning, and institutional assessment. I asked a lot of questions…My notes looked something like this (I think in charts):


Information literacy program > student learning outcomes > assessment

Program goals > derived from university mandated outcomes > assessment

instructional design > university & ACRL standards >  assessment

Curriculum mapping > academic departments > student indicators > assessment

So basically, everything leads back to assessment. There are no state or national standards mandates in information literacy (IL) instruction, so though the ACRL standards and framework are meant to serve as guiding and thinking points, the actual shape of an IL program differs by institution.

A few years ago, I went to WebWise and wrote a blog post about the convergence of information science and education. Pedagogical concepts such as creating user ownership, learner driven processes, learner empowerment, and cross-departmental and institutional collaborative efforts were familiar. While gleefully banging the hammer around sounds like a nice stress reliever, assessment acts as a tool to ensure instruction is meaningful and beneficial to both the learner and the learning community. Which requires putting the hammer down until there’s an actual nail that needs addressing.

Within my residency experience, I find this holistic examination of assessment to be especially helpful, especially since I’m teaching a course at the same time. There are many dots being connected. But with pencil. Because I’m still learning.

**This post was brought to you by “intersectionalities” in the residency and viewers like YOU!**



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