Brief history of assessment in higher education


This is an extremely brief history of assessment. How did we get here? Educational assessment has been around a long,
long time, since at least 589 AD when it’s believed educational tests were used in China
by the Sui emperors who were, quote, “Intent upon establishing over an entrenched aristocratic
system. Sui leaders recognized the prestige of the
Confucian heritage and they decided to test candidates for official government positions
according to their knowledge of this heritage. They reasoned that this method would allow
those with natural ability to enjoy equal opportunity with the aristocracy.” End quote. In this way assessment is far from a new idea. It’s possible to trace the history of assessment
in the United States through four different eras. And this is based on work from Shavelson in
2007. In era one, 1900 – 1933, this was the beginning
of the use of standardized objective tests. And these tests were objective in the sense
that they were multiple-choice tests that are now so familiar to us. And here’s a nice picture from the NDSU library
of downtown Fargo in 1910. This is a photo of actually one of the results
from the early standardized tests in the 1930s, you can see the individual score cards for
each student are stacked according to the score of the student and it makes the familiar
normal curve of distribution of achievement on this test. In an amazing foreshadowing, they used the
results from this test to estimate the value-added of colleges and used scores then to compare
colleges to each other. The next era, 1933-1947, this saw the implementation
of test batteries that included things beyond content knowledge. And this era also saw the development of the
GRE. The third era, 1948-1978, this was the rise
of the test providers and the end of world war 2 led to a dramatic increase in college
enrollments, and produced a need for screening tests and entrance exams to college, which
led to the rise of the SAT and ACT exams. There were also efforts to develop tests for
broader abilities such as communication and problem solving. In the fourth and most recent era, the focus
of assessment clearly turned to accountability efforts, with emphasis on assessment as a
means to provide information and feedback to improve effectiveness. So the quote from the Study Group on the Conditions
of Excellence in American Higher Education read, assessment is “a means to provide information
about the teaching and learning process and as feedback to help improve the effectiveness
with which students, faculty, and the institution carry out their work.” So, where does this leave us? First, we do assessment to be accountable. Accountability sometimes gets a bad reputation,
but if you think of it as a process of demonstrating that we’re achieving our mission for the people
of the state, it seems to be much more reasonable. And a big part of being accountable is to
produce evidence that students are learning. Of course, that’s not the main reason we do
assessment, we do assessment to improve our degree programs and our student’s learning. As my band director in college used to say,
every day, get a little bit better. Assessment is a critical tool in doing just
that. So what this looks like at NDSU, broadly,
is an annual reporting of assessment activity for degree programs, and for co-curricular
programs, and also regular assessment of general education. Now, how we actually do that of course will
be details we will discuss in later videos. But for now, know, as always, I am here to
help! So. No, that’s not quite the picture I wanted. Let’s see. No. No that either. Here, I think…let’s see, it’s got to, okay,
this is, no, that’s not it either. Okay, I think I found it. There. No. No. No no. Okay. Whew. There we go. So, I’m here to help. Jeremy dot Penn at NDSU dot edu. Or 701-231-5210.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *