Friday, January 2, 2009

What Counts as Assessment in the 21st Century?

here's an interesting read by by Ken Buckman

In recent years,there has been an ocean of ink poured over page upon page concerning the topic of assessment. I’m a philosophy professor in Texas where assessment seems to have its epicenter, so I think I have a unique perspective on the topic. Not only is assessment on the march due to misguided Texas legislative initiatives, not only is the Governor of Texas,Rick Perry,pushing an agenda of assessment and standardization,but the man who chaired U.S.Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education,Charles Miller,is in the vanguard of the advocates of assessment and is himself from Texas.

Assessment is one of those wonderful buzzwords that receivetraction every few years,accumulating a bandwagon of popular sentiment,but which remains so vapid and ill defined that it really has no meaning at all—except that it does have consequences. One serious consequence is that assessment often equates with standardized testing, and standardized testing is among the worst things one can inflict on education, let alone higher education. So, what counts as assessment as it emerges here in the dawn of the 21st century?

The motivation behind this assessment talk is unclear. University professors spend years of training becoming experts in specialized academic fields. They are in fact the experts in an area of study. Academic training, ideally at any rate, is directed toward being able to judge the degree to which those who follow also engage scholarly behaviors and standards. Professors are constantly assessing the extent to which students in their classes meet the standards created by the professors themselves,and this is accomplished in a number of ways.This traditional and time-tested method of assessment is challenged by those who maintain professors aren’t doing their jobs and those who do not like the outcomes of university education.




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