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Conference Targets College Learning Assessment

Educators Share Best Practices for Evaluating Student Learning

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More than 200 faculty members and administrators from across the state participated in a conference to address the need for improved assessment of student learning.

By Jill Gambon

With a goal of bringing consistency and transparency to the way student learning is measured at Massachusetts public colleges and universities, some 200 faculty members and administrators from across the state gathered at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center recently to share best practices and advance collaboration across disciplines. 

Participants at the Feb. 9 conference, which was presented by the Department of Higher Education (DHE), shared information on how student work is assessed in different academic areas and looked at how the results are used across departments to promote student learning and success. 

The effort to address student assessment is part of the DHE’s “Vision Project,” a broad-based initiative to ensure excellence in public higher education. The conference, called “Advancing a Massachusetts Culture of Assessment” examined practices in writing, theatre arts, service learning, education and other programs at the state universities and community colleges. 

Massachusetts is emerging as a national leader in the area of assessment, Commissioner of Higher Education Richard Freeland told conference attendees. “Massachusetts is further down this road than any other state,” he said. “If we can accomplish system-level assessment that is embedded in student work, we’ll have accomplished a revolution.” 

Freeland joined Chancellor Marty Meehan and Middlesex Community College President Carole Cowan in opening the conference. 

“Once we are clear about what we want our students to learn, we need to determine whether we have succeeded in imparting those skills and that knowledge to our students,” Meehan said. “As we refine and coordinate our assessment processes at institutions across the state, we will be able to offer students a seamless learning experience as they transfer from community colleges to four-year universities.” 

Looking ahead, Massachusetts will reach out to other states so learning outcomes can be compared at public colleges and universities across the country, Freeland said.