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Conference Highlights University’s Culture of Assessment


“A lot of energy has resulted from reflective conversations throughout the University about what we’re teaching and how we’re teaching it,” commented Provost Patricia Beeson who opened the first annual University of Pittsburgh Assessment Conference January 18 at the University Club.

An ongoing culture of assessment, which Beeson said is critical to the University’s commitment to excellence, was the focus of the event attended by about 100 faculty from across the University. “Assessment is one large piece of a continuous process to ensure the university is doing everything possible to see that that students are learning what they need to know to be successful,” according to Beeson.

In this culture, faculty reflect on their courses individually and collectively “in conversations informed by everything else that we know about the educational process. Then we feed that information back into the curriculum and individual courses to improve learning,” Beeson said.

A reaccreditation team for the Middle States Commission on Higher Education was impressed by the success that assessment efforts had in moving the institution forward, Beeson said. In particular, the recent report by external reviewers pointed to Pitt’s “decentralized system of assessment in which individual faculty and programs own the process and determine how to measure success. They incorporate results directly into discussions and decisions influencing the curriculum. We do comprehensive evaluations of our programs but are not prisoners to data. We use that information to help inform our discussions.”

Keynote speaker Heather Kelly, Director of the Office of Institutional Research at the University of Delaware, discussed examples of the multiple and diverse sources that can be used to measure student learning. In addition to improving teaching and learning, Kelly emphasized that the process of “growing sustainable assessment” provides administrative and institutional benefits, as well.

Faculty members attended one of three break-out sessions focusing on assessment experiences in diverse programs at Pitt.

The conference was coordinated by Alberta Sbragia,  Vice Provost for Graduate Studies; William Shields, Associate Provost; and Juan Manfredi, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies. Guides for program assessment for use in preparing for annual submissions of assessment plans and matrices were distributed.

Cynthia Golden, director of the Center for Instructional Development & Distance Education, emphasized the resources that are available from CIDDE’s Educational Technology and Teaching Support experts. Individual or small group consultations can be arranged by emailing teaching@pitt.edu.



Conference Highlights University’s Culture of Assessment

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