Over the previous 40 years, higher education has begun to adopt innovative technologies in an attempt to better educate students and holistically optimize the assessment process. However, many undergraduate programs have been hesitant to apply these technologies and adopt more rigorous and innovative assessment measures. Recent studies have shown that this hesitancy to prioritize assessment has driven higher education into a crisis; in an “analysis of more than 2,300 undergraduates at twenty-four institutions, 45 percent of these students demonstrate no significant improvement in a range of skills-including critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing – during their first two years of college.”
Let’s unpack assessment’s effect on the quality and efficiency of undergraduate education.
The Road to Improving Higher Education
Dr. Richard Arum and Dr. Josipa Roksa’s research shows a clear need for more stringent assessment in undergraduate education. It’s important that “measures of student learning should be rigorous and high quality and should yield data that allow for comparisons over time and across institutions.” Aggregating student performance data in real time is a challenge for any undergraduate program, but with the ExamSoft assessment platform, undergraduate educators and assessment administrators are able to “tag” exam questions to desired learning outcomes such as critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing. They can then run real-time reports after every assessment, giving educators an exact idea of how their students are performing on a specific learning objective.
Data-Driven Analysis of Instruction
Assessment isn’t just about measuring student learning outcomes; it’s also about measuring instruction. “Through assessment, higher education institutions can gather data about the quality of instruction. Moreover, they can also monitor instruction for improvement.” Longitudinal analysis reports from ExamSoft’s assessment platform can provide undergraduate educators broad research data to compare how each teaching method is influencing student learning. Educators can use data-driven analysis to self-assess curriculum and teaching method changes to better account for student learning discrepancies.
Student Remediation and the Drive to Self-Assessment
The importance of assessment data is evident when it comes to student remediation. Undergraduate faculty need a technological assessment tool that they can leverage to identify student difficulties and weaknesses. ExamSoft’s assessment platform enables educators to produce real-time, easy-to-digest student Strengths & Opportunities Reports that can be used to target struggling students for immediate remediation and also provide the students with their own assessment reports. A recent study on undergraduate assessment found that both undergraduate students and faculty believe student self-assessment “to be vital in promoting student learning.”
Lightening the Load for Undergraduate Educators
One of the biggest challenges to implementing a successful assessment system is time. In the recently cited undergraduate assessment study, researchers found “that a number of teaching preparations…makes it difficult for them…Teachers may find writing tests a tedious and difficult task.” ExamSoft’s solution offers educators a single platform for question banking, exam creation, hosting, grading, and reporting. Freeing up educators’ time also opens the door to opportunities for students to seek more guidance and support.
Assessing the Arts and Humanities
Quantitatively assessing the learning objectives of the arts and humanities disciplines often proves to be a challenging task for undergraduate programs. ExamSoft’s rubrics tool gives art, music, and physical education educators a tool to tackle performance assessment types through “tagging” rubric dimensions to psychomotor, affective, and cognitive learning outcomes. This enables arts and humanities educators to quickly identify gaps in teaching and curriculum so they can make the necessary course corrections without sacrificing the assessment type that works best for their teaching and learning needs.
The learning outcomes crisis in higher education isn’t unsolvable. Solutions like the ExamSoft assessment platform and rubrics give undergraduate programs assessment tools that will lead to the better development of student skills and teaching methods—all while simplifying the entire assessment process. The decline in learned student skills presents undergraduate programs an opportunity to innovate and adapt.
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