Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, Volume 18, Number 3 (2007)

Articles in this issue:

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PDF fileAssessing College Teaching and Learning: A Message From the Editors

Wentzell, G. W., Richlin, L., & Cox. M. D.

Assessment, or the evaluation of educational methods and outcomes with the goal of improving practice, plays a key role in the learning-centered paradigm of 21st-century higher education. In her book Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide (2004), Linda Suskie points out several benefits and beneficiaries of assessment. Students benefit because they understand better their strengths and weaknesses and thereby can work to improve their prospects in school or the professional world. Faculty benefit because assessment allows them to focus on teaching objectives and outcomes and to offer concrete evidence for the quality of their teaching. Administrators benefit because assessment can document the effectiveness of courses, programs, or the institution itself and help them make better-informed decisions. In short, assessment provides the feedback faculty and institutions need to improve teaching and learning.

PDF fileCultural Barriers to Change in Assessment Practices in Higher Education

Jenkins, D. B.

The culture at the authors' institution raised barriers to changing from traditional assessment to portfolio assessment in the doctoral program. A Culture of Independence presented barriers of time and functional inadequacy. A Culture of Compliance raised trust, group process, and membership issues. These barriers were managed and overcome using appropriate group-process strategies, thus moving the institutional culture toward collaboration and innovation. The author emphasizes the importance of attending to the higher education culture if programmatic or structural change is to endure.

PDF fileDefining Intellectual Safety in the College Classroom

Call, C. M.

The author investigated college students' perceptions of intellectual safety by posing research questions designed to elicit a definition of intellectual safety and the elements needed to create an intellectually safe environment. Participants included undergraduate and graduate students drawn from three institutions. All students filled out a questionnaire designed for the study, with what they perceived to be an intellectually safe or threatening environment providing the basis for a definition of intellectual safety. Implications for education are presented, including an emphasis on relationships in the classroom and instructors' self-reflective practices. The author concludes that further study of this topic with a more diverse sample is warranted.

PDF fileUncovering Students' Perceptions of Rubrics

Saam, J., Sorgman, M., & Calhoon, S. K.

Research regarding rubrics in K-12 classrooms and in higher education has focused on teachers' perceptions and use of them. Rubrics have been found to objectify subjective assignments, ensure accountability, and improve student understanding of teacher expectations (Andrade, 2000; Hall & Salmon, 2003; Walvoord & Anderson, 1998). This study focuses on students' perceptions of a rubric and its use. After surveying students in an elementary social studies and science methods course, the authors found that, when they compared it to other elements of the course, students perceived the rubric as being most beneficial in helping them to complete course assignments successfully. More than half of the students gave the rubric the highest rating, and most students perceived the rubric as empowering.

PDF fileMidterm Student Feedback: Results of a Pilot Study

Snooks, M. K., Neeley, S. E., & Revere, L.

The authors investigated the effect of midterm student feedback on final ratings of college teaching and courses. Five classes including 142 students participated in pre- and posttests with the intervention of a midterm group feedback process known in the literature as Bare Bones Questions (or BBQ). Three of the four hypotheses tested were supported. Students reported increases in both their learning and satisfaction, and their ratings of both instructors and courses increased. This research expands current knowledge by demonstrating quantitatively that midterm student feedback is likely to have a positive effect on students' evaluations and is a beneficial addition to other types of evaluations of teaching performance.

PDF fileAre We Just Giving Credit for Time Served? Assessment and Reflection in Service-Learning Courses

Messineo, M.

The author discusses findings from a content analysis of a national sample of 127 service-learning course syllabi to illustrate assessment strategies. Although the results demonstrate the influence of Campus Compact's recommendation to use reflective assessment in service-learning courses, the use of reflection in the syllabi varies widely. Approximately one third of the syllabi use the "grade-credit-for-service-hours" approach that is less-favored by Campus Compact. The author presents and discusses a number of elements tied to assessment. She makes recommendations for improving service-learning courses.

PDF fileLessons Learned in The Faculty Room

Burgstahler, S.

A collaboration of postsecondary institutions nationwide undertook a project to apply research in developing methods and materials to help instructors more fully include students with disabilities in their courses. These institutions conducted a needs assessment; developed content and delivery modes; undertook a rigorous formative evaluation; delivered professional development presentations to faculty, administrators, and teaching assistants; and evaluated results. Participants reported that, as a result of the presentations, they were better able to find resources on their campuses to accommodate students with disabilities, they gained knowledge about legal obligations, and they learned specific teaching strategies and accommodations that benefit students with different types of disabilities. The author shares lessons learned from this project that can be applied on any postsecondary campus to improve teaching and assessment.

PDF fileTeaching Project-Based Assessment in 12 Days in a Developing Country

Hargis, J.

Through a partnership between the University of North Florida (UNF) and the University of Belize (UB), faculty members from UNF taught a graduate course on Assessment and Measurement at UB to train in-service teachers and principals in the area of educational leadership. Two classes totalling 71 graduate students were taught during a three-week period that included four hours of instruction four times a week. The author presents a project-based learning (PrjBL) approach to teaching assessment at the graduate level in a highly diverse, multicultural setting, in a limited amount of time, with minimal resources, and under less than ideal conditions. The author introduces PrjBL, provides a review of the literature, shares an instructional approach, and provides survey data on students' perceptions of PrjBL. Finally, he describes one student case study of the culminating PrjBL project that encompasses test-building techniques, data collection, data manipulation, reliability coefficients, and interpretation of results.

Editorial Staff, Editorial Board, and Reviewers for this issue:

Editor-in-Chief:

Milton D. Cox, Miami University

Executive Editor:

Laurie Richlin, Claremont Graduate University

Managing Editor:

Gregg W. Wentzell, Miami University

Editorial Board:

Laura Border, University at Colorado at Boulder

Angela Brew, University of Sydney

Douglas Eder, Arizona State University

L. Dee Fink, University of Oklahoma

Mick Healey, University of Gloucestershire

Barbara Mossberg, California State University, Monterey Bay

Cecilia Shore, Miami University

Scott Simkins, North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University

Beverley Taylor, Miami University

Norman Vaughan, University of Calgary

John Zubizarreta, Columbia College

Reviewers for This Issue:

Cheryl Beverly, James Madison University

Nancy Van Note Chism, Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis

Langdon Clough, Northeastern University

Donna Cox, Towson University

Delmas Crisp, Wesleyan College

Deborah DeZure, University of Michigan

Alice Flores, National University

Clifton Fuhrman, University of South Carolina

Peter Hurd, Saint Louis College of Pharmacy

Claire Major, University of Alabama

Stacy McGoldrick, California State Polytechnic University

Raelene Shippee-Rice, University of New Hampshire

Marilla Svinicki, University of Texas at Austin

Alan Wright, University of Quebec

Todd Zakrajsek, Central Michigan University

John Zubizarreta, Columbia College