Aileen Murphy

Aileen Murphy is the author of a chapbook, There Will Be Cats. Her poetry has appeared in the anthologies My Baby Rides the Short Bus and Gravity Pulls You In. She is the Assistant Director of Creative Writing at Virginia Tech and the Co-Director of the Blue Ridge Writing Project.

How We Assess in the English Undergraduate CW Program and Why, at Virginia Tech.

Some Guiding Principles and Assumptions:

  1. Assessment should be prompted by our own needs for information and insight and created through faculty discussions about what we think it is important for students to learn. External reporting is secondary.
  2. Assessment must be manageable within our resources of time and money.
  3. Assessment should provide occasions for faculty to communicate across boundaries of discipline, rank, and space.
  4. Words and metaphors matter, and we should maintain a healthy skepticism about reductive forms of institutionalized assessment.
  5. We may report our percentages, but we are under no illusion that any of this is a science. Assessment is mainly just paying attention and thinking about how we can do things better.
  6. Assessment is useful in direct proportion to:
    • The ways it foregrounds student learning and provides structured opportunities for paying attention to it.
    • Its power to help us see what needs to be done.

Direct Assessment:

  1. One learning outcome selected each year.
  2. Sample of student work related to this outcome downloaded from ePortfolios.
  3. Paid faculty volunteers recruited to analyze this work against a faculty-created rubric.
  4. Results organized and reported 1) to the UG Committee; 2) to WEAVE online.
  5. Faculty readers use what is learned from the assessment to provide resources for improving student learning.
  6. Assessment of student work and resulting planning takes place on one full working day.

In the future: The English department ePortfolio project is aligned with the International Coalition for ePortfolio Research. As part of that project, we will later be sampling completed ePortfolios to look at the impact of the project on how students conceive of and reflect on their undergraduate education.

Examples of Indirect Assessment:
Senior survey (both the university survey and a separately devised survey with questions for all English majors and branching questions for students in each option).
(Upcoming this year) Surveys of undergraduate advising; some form of assessment for upper-division advising.
Pre and post-survey for English 2614 students.
Undergraduate Conference assessment.
Career/Leadership Weekend assessment.
Informal survey of recent alums (1-3 years out). What paths did they follow?

Examples of What Assessment Has Prompted in the Last Two Years:

  1. Re-design of the reflection prompts and assignments in the first version of the ePortfolio.
  2. Resource site in Scholar for teachers of English 2604 (samples of strong essays, assignments, rubrics).
  3. The first Career/Leadership Weekend for English majors (2008)
  4. Resource packets for student advising folders: Benchmarks for Career Preparation; Benchmarks for Graduate School Applications
  5. Parking passes for out-of-town visitors to Undergraduate Conference
  6. Move to Torgersen for luncheon and award ceremony.
  7. Mandatory conference preparation workshops for students.
  8. Emphasis on internships and co-curricular activities in English 2614
  9. Career path gift book for graduating seniors 2009
  10. Alumni networking listservs for recent graduates

Examples of English ePortfolios can be found in our Gallery:

The content of most of these ePortfolios is viewable from this site. All links have been made fully sharable for Olivia Walsh’s ePortfolio (in the 2009 student examples)

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