Knowing what we know
19 May 2008

Knowing what we know

As mentioned last week, schools have a

19 May 2008

As mentioned last week, schools have a hard time determining how students are doing, or what they know. The problem, argues Dr. David Shupe, founder of the eLumen Collaborative, is present at all levels of formal education and is becoming an issue for accreditors. To address the problem, eLumen has created a technology-centered approach to “authentic assessment” (a rubrics-based mix of formative and summative assessments) and is rolling out their product to colleges and universities across the United States.

eLumen Collaborative’s approach to higher education is “Let it be clear what students know and can do,” and they really mean it. Their software models a generic process (with variations) for an academic institution systematically attending to expected and actual student achievement, and individual colleges and universities, to the extent that they use it, come to resemble such an institution. The process is straightforward: faculty, working together, define the specific expected student learning outcomes throughout the institution and its programs and explicit evaluation criteria for each. When these are associated with catalog courses (again in different ways), course instructors link work that students will already be doing to these outcomes — whenever and wherever they choose to do so — and then evaluate this work through those specific lens — e.g., what has this student shown in this activity concerning his or her ability to … [whatever specific outcome(s) the faculty (and perhaps the students) have chosen]. These are judgments that faculty are already making – the difference is that each student is evaluated relative to explicit standards (rather than simply to each other) and that the software is used to record those evaluations.

Given that these data are digital and in an integrated relational database, the system can generate instantaneous reports on actual student achievement — per student, per set of students, per student learning outcome, per set of student learning outcomes, per catalog course, per program, per institution, and selected combinations of these — an array of data on student achievement that has never before been visible. Also, when a program chooses, its students (and authorized advisors) can see, in real time, his or her own data and see how their own achievement record compares to any set of expected student learning outcomes that a program or the institution has devised. Likewise, the appropriate committee can see how any defined set of students stands relative to the same define set of expectations. Perhaps the best analogy is the point-of-sale technology that has revolutionized the retail industry.

What if this were adopted in PreK-12, home schooling, corporate professional development, etc.?

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