Classroom-Based Assessment Initiative

In the early spring of 1999, based upon several considerations, Eastern New Mexico University began considering a change in emphasis for academic assessment. Chief among those considerations were (1) discontent of faculty with the academic assessment in place; (2) a need for more assessment of general education; and (3) the perception that the uses of the former ENMU academic assessment practices were severely limited.

By the start of the 1999 fall the Assessment Committee and the Assessment Resource Office (ARO) had become convinced that a "classroom-based assessment" initiative would be the most appropriate change in emphasis. The goal of the initiative was, and remains, to facilitate the use of classroom-based assessment as a fundamental tool for the improvement of learning at ENMU, and for that tool to be used effectively and appropriately across the curriculum over time.

That decision was based upon:

  • A perception that the best thinkers in the field were leaning toward assessment that is more formative and less normative;
  • The discovery of a workable model, as set forth in Effective Grading: A Tool for Learning and Assessment, by Barbara Walvoord and Virginia Anderson Josey Bass (1998). As the 1999 fall semester progressed the ARO and the Assessment Committee began taking action to facilitate a classroom-based assessment initiative.

In October 1999 the faculty was introduced to the ideas behind the initiative. That same month, Barbara Walvoord, coauthor of Effective Grading, came to campus and met with several campus groups, including the General Education Committee and the Assessment Committee, to discuss the advantages of classroom-based assessment.

During the first part of the 2000 spring semester the ARO conducted a series of voluntary faculty luncheon discussions on classroom-based assessment. Twenty-eight faculty members attended those luncheons. Those discussions were very brief, and were intended only as an introduction to the idea of classroom-based assessment.

On Assessment Day in April 2000 a classroom-based assessment presentation for all faculty was conducted by Virginia Anderson, coauthor of Effective Grading, and Janice Denton, a member of the chemistry faculty at Raymond Walters College of the University of Cincinnati. The presentation was attended by approximately 78% of the faculty. Each faculty member attending that workshop was given a copy of Effective Grading.

Following the end of the spring 2000 semester, three workshops on classroom-based assessment were conducted by the ARO. Those workshops consisted of one half-day discussing the subject and deciding upon on classroom-based assessment designs for each faculty member. That was followed by a day off to further develop the idea of each design. The third day another half day was spent in group work and general discussion concerning the assessment designs. The assessment designs were to be sent to the ARO within thirty days from the end of the workshop. Those workshops resulted in thirty-nine assessment designs to be implemented in the 2000-2001 academic year, most of them in the fall semester. Stipends were paid to faculty for attendance at the workshops and development of the assessment designs. Attendance by faculty of the four colleges' at those workshops was roughly proportionate to the size of the colleges.

In December 2000 and January 2001 workshops on classroom-based assessment were conducted by the ARO. Those workshops consisted of approximately two hours discussing the subject and each faculty member deciding upon the general nature of a classroom-based assessment design. The remainder of the workshop was spent in group work, individual work, and general discussion concerning the assessment designs. The assessment designs were to be sent to the ARO at a time early in the spring 2001 semester (date determined by each workshop). The result was twenty assessment designs implemented in fall 2001. In June 2001 workshops on classroom-based assessment were again conducted, resulting in another fourteen assessment designs to be implemented in the 2001-2002 academic year.

In 2000-2001 the faculty completed over 80 individual classroom-based assessment events, with at least an additional 40 expected in fall 2001. In departmental assessment reports filed in June 2001, there were references to classroom-based assessment in nearly all reports.

The new faculty orientation in fall 2001 included an introduction to the concept of classroom-based assessment. In December 2001 and January 2002 an additional 15 faculty members participated in the ARO workshop. All of those resulted in assessment designs.

Throughout the initiative there has been an emphasis on the need for assessment of general education across the curriculum. A special emphasis has been placed on writing. That emphasis is bearing fruit, as evidenced by the appearance of writing facets in assessment designs in various disciplines.

During the spring 2001 semester the ARO and the Assessment Committee worked toward creating a mechanism for providing complete audits of classroom-based assessment activities each semester. It is unlikely that such mechanisms will be completely in place across the curriculum prior to the 2003-2004 academic year, but such audits should be significant for 2001-2002 and 2002-2003. Additionally, several departments of the across campus have made significant strides toward integrating classroom-based assessment into their curriculum design matrixes.

The ARO facilitated and Advanced Classroom-Based Assessment Workshop on May 15, 2002. Attendance was voluntary, and the eleven attendees were paid a modest stipend for their attendance. The workshop lasted four hours. It was in the nature of a discussion group; and the participants were sometimes informally polled on certain questions. The discussion was on two topics. The first was: "Did you find PTA useful as an assessment tool? The second was "What are the biggest problems/greatest challenges facing higher education in the U.S. in general and ENMU in particular? Can classroom-based assessment in general, and PTA specifically, or other assessment methods, be helpful in solving those problems/meeting those challenges?" The participants in that workshop are preparing a paper that will report on the discussion that occurred. However, it can be reported here that all eleven attendees reported finding classroom-based assessment helpful.

The ARO believes that classroom-based assessment gives immediate and direct help to the classroom teacher for improving learning in particular courses in which the assessment takes place. Obviously, however, classroom-based assessment activities cannot maximize improvement in department/ program/college-wide learning unless there is coordination of assessment activities within those academic organizations.

Assessment Committee and the Assessment Resource Office are satisfied with the progress of the initiative to date. It has been reasonably well received in its initial stages.