Building a Culture of Assessment


KENNESAW, Ga. (Feb 13, 2017) — In a recent workshop provided by the Center for Excellence in teaching and Learning (CETL) for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, educators were encouraged to re-examine student assessment in their classes. Assessments are a useful way to measure student improvements towards meeting the intended student learning outcomes for each course.

To fully understand the importance of assessments, we first acknowledge that there are different levels of skill knowledge and mastery for every discipline and every course (Sprague & Stuart, 2000). When students enter a course, they often enter at the unconsciously unskilled level. This means that students do not have any mastery the skills that will be taught in the course, and they are not even aware about what those specific skills are. Faculty, on the other hand, in order to teach the course, often are at the unconsciously skilled level. Here, faculty members have mastered the skills necessary for the course so well that they practice them unconsciously.

Teaching from the unconsciously skilled level can be challenging to faculty members because knowledge about the skills and the mastery of those skills have been so ingrained that it is hard to explain them in a way that others will be able to understand and replicate. For example, riding a bike is a skillmany of us have mastered, but explaining to a child how to balance on a bike might be quite challenging. Ideally, faculty want to be able to instruct from the conscious skilled level. This is the level where they understand the skills they are trying to convey, and they clearly outline for students the steps necessary for mastering those skills. Once students have learned about the skills taught in the course but have not fully mastered them, they are at the consciously unskilled level. At this level, they may be more motivated to improve the skills they know they need but haven’t yet mastered.

So how do students move from these unskilled levels to the consciously skilled level?
One of the ways that faculty can begin to move students to the consciously skilled level is by developing rubrics that contribute to students’ self-assessment. By outlining in detail what the student needs to master, and then acknowledging if the student does or does not meet those criteria in his or her work, faculty can more easily assess the progress being made in their classes, and students can gain skills in self-assessment. CETL offers many options for faculty members looking to incorporate more assessments into their courses.

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Sprague, J., & Stuart, D. (2000). The speaker’s handbook. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt College Publishers.