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We often feel that assessment is a waste of time (and there are plenty of things I'd rather be doing — like writing). To counter that feeling, here's an anecdote from this year's assessment.

Though most of our data was good, and we could show that our students are able to do what we want them to do (within reason), there was one glaring hole in our results. One section of our introductory Creative Writing class hadn't turned in any poetry, only fiction and nonfiction. When I asked the instructor what was going on, I learned that due to larger class sizes (because of higher caps on enrollment — we are up to 20 students in a class now), he had planned too many workshop sessioins on fiction and nonfiction and had little time at the end of the semester for anything else.

We discussed strategies (some of which he was already planning to use) for handling the larger class size, such as breaking students into a few small groups for workshop-style discussions early on in the semester, and then having larger workshops towards the end where students could have more guidance and could choose the genre they wanted to discuss.

This kind of situation can happen as classroom dynamics change due to budget or other external factors. I might have found out about it from students eventually, but assessment gave me hard evidence and an opportunity to raise what could be a touchy question. It is understandable that anyone could have a bad semester in one area or another. But it is good to bring it to light so that what happens one semester doesn't develop into a pattern.

I'm glad that my colleague had recognized the problem and was working to fix it in his classes. But I can imagine many other scenarios where a colleague wouldn't bother, and if left unnoticed, the problem would grow worse.

Google Analytics tool tells me that there have been 228 visitors to this site since it was launched, and that there have been several in the past month. If anyone out there has comments on the rubrics I've posted (or on any of the papers), we can have a discussion. I have posted a new sheet of rubrics on Character in Fiction and Image in Poetry. By no means are they perfect, but they might be useful. I'd love to see your ideas.

Comments anyone? by Kendall DunkelbergKendall Dunkelberg, 25 Aug 2010 22:23
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