Sunday, August 6, 2017

What Assessment Tools Don't Measure

I am no fan of the current trend toward requiring assessment measurements in courses. I suspect that I am not alone. Here, I want to explore what assessment measures do not measure. At the Chronicle of Higher Education, Professor Raymond Shaw gives some examples of unmeasurables in college courses:

Do my statistics students understand that those measures of variability are signs of the perhaps inexplicable and yet marvelous differences between people? That people who fall far from the mean should not be marginalized? Do my positive-psychology students understand that a life of meaning and purpose is more than the right answer to an essay question?

As an undergraduate many years ago, I learned to distinguish Reims cathedral from Chartres in a "Gothic Art and Architecture" course. But ever since, I have contemplated the ineluctable beauty that must have overwhelmed the minds of 12th-century peasants, and the spiritual significance of light. I learned to interpret plays by Tennessee Williams and Eugene O’Neill in another elective course, but have found that their storytelling helped me be more sensitive to and more accepting of the messiness of life as I have experienced the challenges of adulthood.

And I remember, from my freshman year at college, our professor telling us that the purpose of his version of the "Problem of God" course was to make our midlife crisis easier to manage. At 18, I was puzzled by the relevance of Dag Hammarskjöld to my grandfather’s uncharacteristic new convertible. At 48, I was finally and unexpectedly grateful to that professor for improving my life.

You can read more here.

Here are four examples of insights in gained in my law school courses that current assessment tools do not address. In Property, I learned to think in terms of legal realism. In my Remedies course, I gained the freedom to think about devising remedies that went beyond damages and injunctions. In my Constitutional Law course, I began the challenge of trying to understand why some rights receive more protection than others. In a discussion with fellow students after my poorly-taught Criminal Procedure course, I gained  better understanding of how judicial decision making relies on more than parsing precedent.


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