Assessment is a fact of life for educators. The days of “leave me alone and let me teach” are over. By that I mean that, in today’s world, it’s not enough to be a great teacher, you have to prove that you are a great teacher.
Not only that, but programs must prove that they are teaching what they say they are teaching. And, after much wrestling with the idea, I agree that stakeholders have a right to know that there are ways to measure quality without relying just on the instructor’s say-so.
Here is a good video about how assessment and teaching go hand-in-hand:
So, this web site’s second mission is to provide some feedback on assessing the quality of public speaking instruction. I also go into other “communication” course materials here because they often overlap with presentations and, as I will discuss later, a smart assessment can hit multiple learning outcomes.
Much of my advice comes from many years of assessing SPCH courses in the Dallas County Community College. I had the pleasure of working for many hours with my colleagues Delryn Fleming, Julie Perez, Cheryl Dyer-Vargas, Quentin Wright, and Anne Grissom.
The key to great assessment is knowing your audience: Who actually cares about the data you collect? In my experience, assessment data mainly flows up. Departments report to divisions. Divisions report to colleges. Colleges report to districts or university systems. Colleges and programs also report to the government and/or accreditation agencies. As the levels progress, the information becomes broader and the goals larger, if not murkier.
In the private sector, trainers report to a variety of managers and other stakeholders (not to mention the participants, especially if they paid for the course).
Not to be too negative, but there will be many times when you will feel like nobody really cares. There also will be times when the ground shifts from under your feet. For example, I personally spent many, many hours coming up with a very useful assessment of listening skills, only to be told, “never mind, we didn’t really expect you to assess that.”
If your college has an assessment coordinator, consider yourself lucky. Personally, I believe there should be a Vice President of Assessment at every college, and a Vice Chancellor of Assessment at every university or district. Without that level of coordination, chaos rules.
One more note about your audience: Don’t forget about you! At its best, assessment guides us. With clear, useful data, you can better your teaching, and isn’t that what great teachers constantly do?
Okay, so now that we’ve identified the purposes for assessment, we need to think about how to approach it. To that end, I have two sections to this web site devoted to assessment: