When I was a kid, I was always anticipating something – Christmas, spring break, summer vacation, my next birthday.  As I got older and the responsibility for those activities fell more squarely on my shoulders, the anticipation took on some other qualities, like anxiety and trepidation.  And, of course, at this stage of life, let’s not even discuss birthdays! But I am experiencing a pleasant form of anticipation again as all the planning and preparation ramps up for the 6th Annual Regional Community College Assessment Conference scheduled for April 22, 2016.  Working with our keynote speaker Dr. Jillian Kinzie, coordinating with colleagues about logistics, marketing the conference, and discussing components of the venue are all serving to build the anticipation and excitement for what I know will be a great conference. Mark your calendar now for the 2016 conference with its timely theme of Assessment: Shifting from Compliance to Ownership so you will also have a great event to anticipate.  Continue reading

We Are All in the Same Boat


All of my life, I have heard the phrase, “We’re all in the same boat.”  Growing up on the water in Florida gave me ample opportunity to hear it.  I recently tried to track down the original quote and found references all the way back to Sophocles, so I think it is safe to say that it has been operative for quite a long time. I thought of this phrase recently in chatting with some colleagues from a community college in St. Louis.  The campus is bringing a team here to JCCC in October to visit with our office and the college’s Assessment Council about assessment issues.  They want to know how we are approaching assessment, what is working well, and what doesn’t work.  I believe they are hoping we have a magic pill that we can share that will help them engage more of their faculty in assessment initiatives on campus. It is a conversation I have often with Continue reading

Assessment is Like a Chicago Hot Dog

20150911_134232 Sheri's Chicago hot dog

I was recently in Chicago for a conference and made my regular pilgrimage to obtain the ultimate of all hot dogs, a true Chicago dog.  Now, please understand that in my family we considers ourselves connoisseurs of hot dogs:  my dad loved them, my brothers still find them tasty, and I’ve certainly consumed my fair share of them. But let’s be honest, there is just something special about a Chicago dog. First of all, the Chicago hot dog has LOTS of ingredients.  The hot dog has to be served in a poppy-seed bun with yellow mustard and white onions, and should be smothered in sweet pickle relish with a touch of mint.  Next added are a couple of peppers, some tomatoes, a kosher dill pickle spear, and just a pinch of celery salt.  My very favorite version includes an all-beef “char-dog” where the hot dog is grilled over charcoal.  Now that is the penultimate hot dog treat! You would think Continue reading

Joining the Debate: Does Assessment Matter?

The purpose of the Science Resource Center (SRC) is to provide life science and physical science students the opportunity for independent study. Free tutoring in anatomy, biology, chemistry, geology and physics is available to all students.

I have read with interest an ongoing debate taking place in the Chronicle of Higher Education and on some assessment listservs to which I subscribe. The basic question is this: after two decades of colleges doing assessment work, is there evidence that such work is efficacious?  I really don’t mind the question; it is a wholly appropriate question to ask ourselves. Unfortunately, the writer of the Chronicle article that generated all the chatter tied assessment activities specifically to accreditation requirements.  He questions whether accrediting bodies should still stress assessment as one of the criterion for accreditation.  Honestly, I prefer we go back to the original and most fundamental question upon which good assessment is based: “How do we know our students are learning?” The posts and opinions I have read in response to the article suggest to me that the problems we face regarding assessment exist on several levels. While I haven’t posted my two-cents’ worth online, I will share my Continue reading

New Beginnings!


I love the beginning of a new school year.  Everything seems fresh and new.  New students, new classes, and, of course, new assessments! If you are a faculty member, the beginning of the academic year is a great time to consider if assessment strategies from last year accomplished your goals.  Did the rubric measure what you expected?  Did the pre/post test show the gains that your students achieved?  Did students meet the benchmarks you established?  Were the student results well over, or well under the mark? These are some pertinent questions to ponder as you review assessment strategies for the coming year: What student learning did you measure? Did the assessment instrument capture the learning as expected? If not, can the instrument be tweaked? Or Do you need to start over? How are you examining the assessment data? Are you looking beyond averages? Is the data evenly distributed? Are there large gaps in performance? How will you impact the curriculum Continue reading

Summertime Fun


For the past two weeks, I have had the great joy of offering assessment workshops here on campus for colleagues from around the region.  The workshop, Assessment by Design, is a one-day experience with curriculum designed to facilitate the development of an assessment plan at the class, course, or program level, independent of discipline.  Faculty from both 2-year and 4-year schools participated and I loved the robust discussions that took place around assessment issues at their institutions.  My favorite part of the workshops were the wonderful “ah-ha” moments that occurred when everything suddenly made sense to folks and assessment turned from merely a compliance framework to a key mechanism for improving student learning. All in all, it was a great way to kick off the summer. And do I ever love summer!  “Summertime, and the livin’ is easy. Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high.” (George Gershwin) I know I have mentioned before on this blog that I am Continue reading

Hello, My Name Is

20150602_133324-Sheri nametag

I just got back on campus after spending time at the Association for Institutional Researcher (AIR) Forum in Denver.  I had the opportunity to hear lots of great sessions from my colleagues and learn more about their institutions. That said, you would be inclined to think I would blog this week about some great sessions, but you would be wrong. When we checked in at the forum, we were given a preprinted name badge and a group of stickers to adhere to a blank space under our name. The point of the stickers was for us to “personalize” our name badges to better reflect the diversity of experience present at the conference.  I chose ones like “I <3 statistics” and “Learning Outcomes” and the ever popular “Accreditation.”  Some of my colleagues chose even more interesting stickers like “Data Diva.” I came really close to selecting that one but didn’t think I had quite earned the title of “Diva.” Not yet, Continue reading