The Cornell University Graduate School is undertaking campus-wide and disciplinary-specific initiatives to provide practical experience in the planning and implementation of undergraduate learning assessments. In collaboration with the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE), Cornell is developing a lunch-time seminar series on assessment, a certificate program in advanced assessment techniques, and research projects on future faculty teaching assessment.
Project Plan and Activities:
Cornell has two main goals:
1. Expand teaching professional development opportunities for future faculty from all fields.
A lunchtime seminar series focusing on Best Practices in Assessment will be offered campus-wide with a particular focus on First-Year Writing Seminar (FWS) Instructors, Teaching Assistants from gateway STEM courses, and members of graduate student organizations serving underrepresented student groups.
Of the 175 participants Cornell anticipates attending yearly, 10 will be selected each year to pursue a new certificate in Advanced Assessment Techniques. The certificate will document guided practice in design of assessments and use of student data to modify teaching strategies, and will lead to the creation of tangible materials for future faculty to use in a teaching portfolio or syllabus.
2. Catalyze disciplinary discussions about student assessment between teaching assistants and faculty from targeted STEM and humanities courses.
Each year two STEM gateway courses, identified with deans and directors from life and natural science and mathematics, will be chosen to form learning communities to re-examine student learning outcomes and assessment strategies. CTE will compile feedback and evidence from course participants and facilitate discussion with teaching assistants and faculty about developing measurable, behavioral learning objectives. As the course learning communities identify new strategies to implement, CTE staff will offer assistance in designing and deploying mid-semester evaluations. Course team leaders in STEM gateway courses will complete a survey about the perceived impact of the CTE-facilitated course reflections and planning meetings on undergraduate student satisfaction and learning outcomes during the grant and for three years afterwards. Supporting evidence (i.e., syllabi, assignments, and student evaluations) will be requested where possible.
Partnering with the John S. Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines, Cornell will target graduate FWS instructors for practical assessment training. The Graduate School and CTE will sponsor $250 stipends for up to 5 graduate students per year to participate in Peer Collaborations on assessing and responding to student writing. In Peer Collaborations, teaching assistants propose projects with other teaching assistants. Faculty course leaders act as consultants, approve proposals and submit them to the Knight Institute, meet with participants, and help them prepare the final report.
With guidance from the Center for Teaching Excellence, the Cornell University Center for the Integration of Research, Training, and Learning (CU-CIRTL), and the John S. Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines, five graduate students each year will be recruited to conduct Teaching-as-Research projects on assessing student writing and will receive $250 stipends toward their efforts.
Pre- and post-practicum assessment statements will be gathered from participants in high-engagement training activities to identify evidence of improvement in stating more behavioral and explicitly measurable learning objectives, aligning assessments and assignments to desired learning outcomes, and providing various means for diverse learners to demonstrate their expertise.