Of Apples, Oranges, and Elephants


    Over the last 2 years, JCCC undertook the monumental task of developing a comprehensive General Education Assessment Plan.  Given the diversity of general education classes, student learning outcomes, and opinions on what the new plan should contain as well as the sheer volume of general education courses offered by the college, the task seemed somewhat daunting at the outset. A task force of faculty and administrators were charged with developing, sharing, modifying, and launching the General Education Assessment plan.  The task force quickly identified key elements that would become signature features of the plan: Direct Assessment of Student Learning Indirect Assessment of Student Learning Strong engagement by Faculty Opportunities for improved learning Transparency of results And, most importantly, the plan needed to respect the differences of the departments and programs in which the General Education curriculum was offered.  If you would like to learn more about JCCC’s efforts, plan on attending the final breakout session, Apples to Oranges Continue reading



Although I’ve lived in the Midwest for over 20 years now, my roots are still firmly placed in the Deep South, and I identify myself, when asked, as a Southerner. I was thrilled to think one of my favorite Southern foods might be featured somehow in a breakout session on assessment – grits with cheese, after all, is a southern delicacy.  But, alas, “GRIT, Hope and the First Year Student” involves something far flung from my favorite dish. The presenters of this session, Kimberly Glackin, Melissa Geise, and Kristy Bishop, hail from Metropolitan Community College in Kansas City, Missouri. They are going to focus on a question that every faculty member has likely pondered: why do students seem to lack the stick-to-it-ness (or GRIT) needed to be successful?  Join your colleagues on April 10 in this afternoon breakout session at the conference to learn more.  Look for me: I’ll be the one in the corner munching on grits–with cheese, of Continue reading

The Missing Link

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I really do love a quality animated film.  I am the one who usually rents a niece or nephew to take with me so that I don’t look too foolish heading into a children’s movie by myself.  One of my favorite of these films in the last couple of years was Monsters vs. Aliens.  And my favorite character from the film was a monster named Link—as in the “missing link”.  Link was a 20,000-year-old monster that looked like a spinoff of the main character in Creature From the Black Lagoon.  In the movie, Link did the heavy-lifting for the team of monsters so they could save the day. At this year’s assessment conference, Dr. Christopher Meseke from Park University will be presenting a breakout session with his own version of the missing link, only his link is in academia, of course.  Dr. Meseke will share his story of heavy lifting on the assessment front at Park with “The Missing Link: Continue reading

Journey to the Center of Assessment


Ever wonder what goes on at the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) assessment workshops?   Is your campus considering signing up for the Assessment Academy?  You might want to attend Highland Community College’s presentation during the morning breakout sessions.  Members of the Highland Community College Assessment Committee will share their experiences with the HLC workshop, pros and cons, advice for first-timer attendees, highlights of the experience, and benefits gained.  In addition, the presenters will provide an overview of the implementation of their college’s assessment plan. The presenters promise an interactive session with participants joining in a couple of activities/processes that their team brought back from the academy and found interesting, useful, and enjoyable.  The final line of their session description is my favorite, “Caveat: We are presenting as colleagues sharing the journey, not as accomplished experts providing authoritative advice!”  Sounds like a perfect session to me. Sheri H. Barrett, Ed.D

Inquiring Minds Want to Know


I am excited on multiple fronts that Rockhurst University faculty will be presenting at this year’s assessment conference.  First, our colleagues at Rockhurst have been a regular part of the conference since its inception.  Secondly, given the current national focus on STEM, their breakout session on learning and retention in general biology courses offers a chance for all of us to get up to speed on the pertinent issues in assessing science curriculum. We know from the literature that these introductory level courses often predict success in science courses throughout the curriculum.  Obviously, this is an important concern for both four-year and transfer institutions.  Consider hearing the team from Rockhurst explain the correlations and trends they found through their research in their session, “Assessment of Learning and Retention in a Two-Semester General Biology Course Sequence and Beyond.” We have two four-year colleges presenting at this year’s conference.  While the conference emphasis is still primarily on community colleges, there is so Continue reading

Black Holes


A few years back (which with my memory could be anywhere from last month to over a decade ago), I was at a Higher Learning Commission annual meeting and read the best ever conference session title for assessment:  “Black Holes and Gaseous Processes: Big Mistakes in Assessment.” Until recently, this title has remained one of my favorite descriptions of how I often feel when working on assessment initiatives on campus. But now I have a new favorite title, one that abandons all metaphors to reach an even starker level of candor:  “How to Conduct Effective Assessment When Nobody Wants to, They Can’t agree What to, but We Have to.” This session is being offered by our colleagues from Des Moines Area Community College.  Beth Baker-Brodersen, District Chair English; Bret Ross, English Assessment Committee Chair; and Chelli Gentry, Director of Assessment, will share their work on implementing a district-wide assessment program.  I’m looking forward to hearing their presentation of their story Continue reading

It’s Complicated

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General Education curriculum: Who owns it? Who assesses it? And, importantly, who decides on changes based on the assessment data? Big questions, even bigger answers. These are just a few of the complications that swirl around higher education assessment. At this year’s conference, we have two sessions that not only bring these broad questions into tight focus but also offer specific strategies for making gen ed assessment happen. In an afternoon breakout titled “Structuring and Scaling Up Embedded Assessment of General Education Outcomes at St. Louis Community College,” presenters will share their redesigned system-wide general education assessment, including best practices, early findings, obstacles, and future directions. In the final breakout session of the day, Johnson County Community College will share an AQIP action project to develop a comprehensive assessment plan which encouraged broad faculty participation, early implementation, and analysis of first results. These presenters will also address the difficulties of aggregating different kinds of data, hence the session title, “Apples Continue reading