Reported by Gene KerstiensWinter Institute, January 5, 1998, Summary of Sessions via Rick Sheets' email account :
19th Annual Institute

This year's participants and mentors met at 5pm on Sunday, January 4, for orientation and preview of the week's activities

                                            Monday, January 5
Keynote Address.  Gwyn Enright  "Student Assessment & Program Evaluation"
PM General Session:  Georgine Materniak, "CAS Standards for Learning Assistance"


Keynote Address.  Gwyn Enright  "Student Assessment & Program Evaluation"

       The presentation began by having participants take four tests developed by William Saffire and calculated to occasion frustration.  This exercise was supposed to inspire a mental and emotional set not unlike that experienced by students being assessed during a testing situation.

     Peter Elbow, K P Cross, and B. Bloom were were discussed as principals in the assessment field who believe that in academe we are obsessed with grading, we fail to use all the data we collect, and that we tend not to recognize that assessment should reveal competencies in order to improve instruction.  In sum,
evaluation must be linked to instruction.

     Research that supports certain "axioms" of assessment and evaluation were discussed:

          l.  Students' self-assessment is usually accurate.
          2.  The degree to which students are test-wise correlates with GPA.
          3.  Student difficulty in passing tests is related to anxiety.
          4.  Students make it clear that they don't like being evaluated under
               the conditions that typically obtain today.

     Two alternatives to the employment of typical testing instruments that are invariably time-critical are portfolio assessment & Computer-Adaptive testing.  Virtues of these applications were discussed.

     Much of the confusion over the validity of testing occurs because assessment means different things to different people:  admissions, funding agencies, administration, instructional support, counseling, and those responsible for publishing standards & goals.

     Conclusion:  We need to focus on the principle that assessment should be designed and executed to "make things [learning] better."

     Responders:   Gene Kerstiens observed that timed testing was not utilized until World War I and then only as an expedient.  However, it has persisted chiefly as an administrative convenience even though it credits speed at the expense of mismeasuring and even ignoring the degree of  accuracy.  Computer adaptive and portfolio assessment alleviate this condition.  Bill Mathis gave examples of the different ways assessment is perceived by faculty, students,and administrators.  The one shared perception is that all are anxious about being evaluated because ratings too often are related to emotional and economic survival rather than skill improvement.

PM General Session:  Georgine Materniak, "CAS Standards for Learning Assistance"

          The history, purpose, and structure of the CAS, Council for Advancement of Standards, was discussed while emphasizing that the agency was initiated to focus on self-assessment of entire programs rather than assessment of a program's individual components.  CAS presently is serving 29 professional associations including NADE and CRLA to facilitate development and continued adjustment of standards that identify their goals and provide direction for further development.

         She noted that developing guidelines for learning assistance was a particularly troublesome task because the list of practicies, beliefs, programs, and services associated with learning assistance are so diverse.  Finding language considered as appropriately representing the mission and goals of various LAC facilities takes time and a great deal of negotiating.

          The usefulness of standards for and effective practices of learning assistance centers was discussed.  1.  A checklist of typical programatic fatures includes components that you may want or need to complement your program, this document being support for adoption in order to "meet national standards."  2. The document includes guidelines for training and assessment of staff involved in LAC programs.
3.  As conditions of learning and the problems associated with them change, careful revision of standards can supply direction to members.

         Responders:  Rick Sheets emphasized the need for surveillance of the changes that advancing technology concerning learning and how documenting standards can be of help.  Frank Christ noted that establishing standards can be particularly helpful to practitioners needing support, especially budgetary, in order to keep pace with technological change.

This Report Hastily Composed and Apologetically Submitted by
Gene Kestiens <[log in to unmask]>