National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment |

National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment

NILOA In the Field

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February 2017

Broward College Coaching visit

On February 10th, 2017, NILOA Senior Scholar Dr. David Marshall traveled to Broward College in Florida in his capacity as DQP/Tuning assessment coach. Briefly described, a coaching visit provides institutions with an opportunity to receive outside guidance and advice on issues related to assessment that are particular to the institution. It is not a turnkey solution service, instead, it offers guidance to “institutional self-understanding and creative, contextualized problem solving, which often takes the form of workshops that orient faculty, staff and administrators towards productive ways of working in their own local context,” said Dr. Marshall. In his view the main focus of a coaching visit relies on three principles: fostering greater self-awareness among personnel, developing knowledge about effective practices, and creating and practicing strategies for fostering meaningful and collaborative action. Since coaches are not to deliver a ready-to-implement solution, but rather identify issues and challenges that institutions face, it requires them to listen and observe, looking for signs to identify problems that faculty and administration often seen by those external to the process

Due to the number of available coaches, NILOA has limited capability of providing coaching visits, it is for this reason and also to ensure the best fit between coach and institution that interested institutions are asked to submit a coach request. Broward College contacted NILOA to request a coach after hearing about its Assignment Charrette work. After their initial contact, they completed the coach request form, and NILOA paired the college with Dr. Marshall, since their interests involved Tuning, the field of his expertise. For more information on Tuning please click here

The goals vary depending on the institution and each particular situation. Taking a look at the example of Broward College, alignment to general education outcomes was of particular interest. To briefly describe the situation, Broward has transitioned from a two-year to a four-year institution. As part of that process, they have developed core competencies for the general education program, and they desire to assure that classroom-embedded assignments are aligned to those outcomes in meaningful ways. The key difficulty was instructing faculty on developing assignments that would achieve this effectively. They had developed their own charrette process, independent of the coaching visit and have been working on assessment of their critical thinking core competency. According to Dr. Marshall, “Because of their activities, the faculty in attendance were well-prepared and receptive for the visit. They were positive, raised good questions, and began to make connections among themselves.

Workshops do not follow a standard pattern, as NILOA coaches adjust their activities depending on the situation and participation. Broward College’s workshop included 35 attendees from all three of its campuses. First, Dr. Marshall focused on the theoretical framework, discussing the learning systems paradigm, the need for intentional alignment, and the importance of collaborative, transparent approaches to these items. During the afternoon, participants participated in an assignment charrette, followed by a discussion of how such efforts can be sustained and broadened to a larger campus constituency. According to Dr. Marshall, this resulted in energized attitude around the work already happening on campus and new ideas of frames for conceptualizing the integration of curriculum through learning outcomes.

Concluding, Dr. Marshall noted that Broward College has taken an important step towards developing meaningful assessment for student learning in their general competencies. This approach enriches student learning, when synergy can be created across the different spaces in which students learn. Additionally, this method must be based on collaborative reflection among faculty, staff, and administrators, and a focus on where and how learning happens. In Dr. Marshall’s words, “Undertaking that kind of work requires a shift in thinking about assessment to recognition that assessment is, in large part, a professional development project.”

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"The complex, diverse learning goals, of postsecondary education do not justify a passive approach to student achievement. It is heartening to see state policy and institutional leaders working together to collect evidence of student learning and pursue continuous improvement."

Paul Lingenfelter

Paul E. Lingenfelter
President Emeritus
State Higher Education Executive Officers