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NEEAN Fall Forum Report

Report from the New England Educational Assessment Network

Fall Forum 2008
Worcester State College, Worcester, MA

On November 7, ten faculty and staff from Fitchburg State attended the New England Educational Assessment Network Fall Forum. Four attendees made an invited panel presentation during an afternoon breakout session.

Professors Eric Budd, John Chetro-Szivos, Linda McKay, and Ben Railton, along with Dr. Stephen Wall-Smith, presented during a session entitled “Balancing Forests and Trees: Getting Results and Using Them.” Dr. Wall-Smith introduced the other panel members and stressed that academic programs have different goals, different kinds of oversight, and therefore need to gather, organize, and present different kinds of evidence. Professors Budd and Railton described the process of planning for and implementing assessment of the new General Education curriculum. Professor McKay discussed Nursing’s very particular data needs, and actions triggered by metrics which once fell below expected levels. Professor Chetro-Szivos described several assessment approaches which Communications Media has used and is using effectively, and stressed the importance of building an atmosphere of trust and collegiality.

The Fitchburg State session was attended by more than 40 other Forum participants. Evaluations were very favorable, with 90% or more respondents to session evaluation forms agreeing that objectives were clear, the information was helpful and applicable, and the speakers were engaging. Comments included: “This was an excellent, insightful and extremely well-prepared and organized. By far the best session I attended.” … “Nursing’s approach to assessment was very clear and a ‘success story.’ Interesting evaluation.” …”Bring these folks, especially Wall-smith, Railton and Budd, back a second time when their project is further along and has more ‘history’ to go along with the development thinking. Great talk!” …”Very motivating. Great plan for interactive, collaborative group activities with colleagues.”

The Keynote Speaker, Dr. Barbara Cambridge from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, noted that the distinction between assessment and research is often narrow and arbitrary. She cited examples of effective collaboration between educators and researchers, and called for more of the same in the future.

Other attendees from Fitchburg State came back from the NEEAN Fall Forum with reports that the process of creating portfolios improves student critical thinking; that assessment works best where it is ‘owned’ by faculty but supported (with financial rewards and policies like course-release) by administrators; that a “learner centered” class environment combines assessment, teaching, and learning, but that questionnaires and other instruments can be used to fuse the elements even more effectively; that “technology gaps” among students maintaining e-portfolios can be addressed through training of “technology tutors”; and with additional information concerning assessment in mathematics, philosophy, and English classes; standardized testing; capstone evaluations; the use of outside reviewers for portfolio assessment; and assessing off-site and online experiences.

The annual Forum, held this year on the campus of Worcester State College, brings assessment practitioners from around the New England and around the country to learn best practices from each other. Attendees from Fitchburg State included Jennifer Berg, Eric Budd, John Chetro-Szivos, Christine Devine, Patrice Gray, Lauren MacKenzie, Linda McKay, James Noonan, Ben Railton, and Stephen Wall-Smith. Attendance was funded by a grant from the Davis Educational Foundation.