Assess It! | February 19, 2015

Great gen ed assessment

On Friday, November 14th, 2013, faculty and staff from all over the state came to Hunter to talk about What Every College Graduate Should Know, otherwise known as general education. The topic under discussion? How you know when they know: the assessment of students’ general education.

The conference began with rousing openings from our Provost, Vita Rabinowitz, and Lucinda Zoe, CUNY’s University Dean of Undergraduate Studies. Each presenter then offered a variety of methods and tools to discover what their college graduates were leaving with, tailored to the needs, interests, and capacities of each academic setting.

  • Jay Deiner at NYC College of Technology (CUNY) discussed an elegant way to layer the assessment of general education on top of an existing program-level assessment, using, for example, one assignment (a lab report) to assess both writing in chemistry and writing as a general education competency. This had the natural advantage of relying on assignments and pedagogical discussions already ongoing to inform a school-wide comparison across disciplines.
  • Andrew Sidman at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY) also shared his experience interweaving program-level assessment and general education assessment, introducing an innovative method of indirect assessment that dramatically expands the scope beyond what can be assessed directly by mapping and aggregating the results of individual class rubrics.
  • Anne Goodsell Love at Wagner College in Staten Island and Gladys Palma de Schrynemakers and Melissa Antinori from LIU/Brooklyn walked participants through the multiple thoughtful strategies they employed over the years to directly assess writing for all graduates, highlighting challenges of design and feasibility. Both discussed the critical roles of college-wide organizational structures to carry out the process and encourage sustained faculty collaboration over the longer term.

An inspiring conference, to say the least! While I came away with lots of big and small ideas to discuss with my colleagues, five simple pieces of advice stand out:

  1. Build on what you have
  2. Reach out to others
  3. Keep it simple
  4. Stay committed
  5. Be adventurous!

We are all undertaking a grand experiment: trying – with the greatest possible patience, open-mindedness and integrity – to discover what our students know upon graduation. I look forward to it!

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