Research paper in learning outcomes

Standardised assessments are also promulgated via commercial textbooks Pearson Though such exogenous intervention may in the longer run inject the shock required for reform, it also tends to balkanise internal from external interests and has little impact on learning or teaching practice. Clearly, there are myriad reasons why assessment has not been experienced its game-changing modernisation moment.

While such reasons are invariably entwined in specific contexts and initiatives common themes can be isolated from review of several projects.

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These contextual challenges are considered with respect to the factors required to facilitate change. As with the preceding analysis, there is no claim that the list is exhaustive or the analysis universal. Thinking and practice in certain fields and institutions is more advanced than in others. Obviously, people with vested interests in entrenched approaches are often significant obstacles to change.

At the same time, these are the very professionals who are bearing the brunt of quality and productivity pressures. Reshaping their perspective on assessment would open myriad fresh opportunities. This is a challenging point to make, yet remains a task that cannot be ignored. Relevant professional capability and capacity is required to change assessment practice, which in the field of higher education is in short supply. Higher education itself lacks dedicated assessment professionals, and there appear to be too few assessment specialists with relevant industry experience Coates and Richardson As picked up in the conclusion to this chapter, the lack of a professional assessment community is an obvious impediment to change.

Building a new profession of assessment experts or a community of faculty with interest in assessment requires investment by higher education institutions and stakeholders, yet can ultimately be addressed through training and development. This has already happened in certain contexts—the United States higher education and medical education are obvious examples—yet there is a need to broaden practice. Academics require professional training and development to improve competence in assessment, yet such training has really only evolved over the last few decades, and as noted above, is spasmodic.

It would be helpful to cite figures on the incidence of such training among academics, and while it affirms the point, it is regrettable that such figures do not exist. Most academics learn their trade via what could be characterised as an informal apprenticeship, and while competence in assessment is no exception, this does not discount the need for creating more systematic forms of professional development. Improving assessment capability among academics will do much to encourage diversification and excellence. Inasmuch as academic autonomy, in its various encapsulations, provides faculty with a sense of private ownership over assessment it can be a significant impediment to change.

Assessment by its nature is a very public and formal matter, and subject to any material constraints should be as transparent as any other academic activity. Research proposals and papers undergo peer review, and there is no reason why assessment tasks should not as well. Academic autonomy is invariably a contingent rather than absolute phenomenon, and it is likely that training and management could advance more sophisticated conceptualisations of professional practice.

Often the most profound shocks are exogenous to a system. The rise of online technology and policies impelling increasing marketization of higher education are two examples. By definition such shocks are highly significant to advancing education, yet are profoundly difficult to forecast or induce. Ultimately, as in many industries, new technologies and business processes are required to adapt. Inherent security and confidentiality constraints play an obvious role in constraining assessment reform.

The greater the stakes, the greater the security and confidentiality implications. In a host of ways such constraints hinder collaboration and drive-up costs, yet contribute to the value and impact of assessment. Engineering new technologies and assessment processes seems to be the most effective means of addressing such constraints. As assessment like other facets of higher education becomes increasingly commercial in nature, various business considerations grow as greater obstacles to change.

Non-trivial intellectual property considerations may be pertinent, for instance, by hindering the sharing and replication of materials. Working through such obstacles can be expensive and complex, yet in many instances is ultimately resolvable with appropriate negotiations and agreement. Data from assessments are not included in international institutional rankings, for instance, and academic promotions practices typically favour research over education performance. As these remarks portend, sparking change on this front likely requires an external commercial or regulatory intervention.

Traditional higher education structures can hamper progress, creating confusion about who should own change. Individual faculty focus on assessing particular subjects, departments focus on majors, and students and institutions on qualifications. Fragmentation of curriculum and cohorts can further hinder the formation of coherent assessment schemes.

This can create an ownership or agency problem, rendering change problematic.

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Changing this dynamic typically involves developing and managing more collaborative forms of academic practice. Indeed, current practice may well work locally, yet be unsustainable in broader or different contexts. Institutions have varying ways for leading change in academic practice, which ultimately must resonate with prevailing policies and norms. In reviewing challenges in changing assessment practice in higher education it appears that change, in summary, hinges on further academic professional development, changed institutional management, ongoing technology and business process development, and external commercial or policy intervention.

None of these facilitators are easy to plan or enact. Given the complexity and difficulty of the task to hand, there seems value in pushing on all fronts in synchrony, noting that even by passing through various tipping points, reform is likely to be haphazard and take time. To yield the best outcomes it is essential to invest constrained time and resources in the most effective ways. What, then, are the major processes involved in assessment, and the benefits and challenges of changing each? In essence, what is the assessment supply and value chain, and how can it be improved?

The emphasis on value chain Porter as well as supply chain heralds the need to focus not just on technical and operational processes, but also on improving the quality and productivity of assessment for students, institutions and broader stakeholders. Assessment is underpinned by various forms of strategic and operational planning, which leads to specific governance, leadership, and management arrangements. Effective strategic planning is the key to improvement, of course, not least to build greater institutional rather than individual engagement in assessment to ensure higher-order capabilities are being assessed and more coordinated approaches to improvement.

Operational planning is an area in which there would appear to be substantial grounds for development. Analysis reported elsewhere Coates and Lennon suggests that collegial forms of governance appear most effective, though there is value in strengthening existing practice by adding further points of external reference.

As earlier remarks convey, there would appear to be substantial benefit in adopting more advanced management of assessment, which appears to be instrumental in shifting practice beyond boutique forms of practice. Assessment development hinges on a suite of technical, substantive and practical considerations, but fundamentally involves specification, development, validation of materials, as well as planning for their deployment. This is an area in which there are enormous quality and productivity advances to be made in re-engineering conventional practice. As discussed earlier, work is underway in particular fields and contexts on finding more collaborative and scalable approaches to specifying learning outcomes.

This is important, for specifying learning outcomes is the work that links curriculum with assessment.

Less advance has been made in improving the specification of concrete assessment tasks, however, with much practice still relying on convention rather than more scientific rationales. Similarly, there would appear to be substantial advance possible regarding assessment task production—feasibility has been demonstrated in large-scale initiatives, but diffusion of new techniques has been low.


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As well, research findings see Coates affirm the need to improve the validation and production of materials. In short, beyond advances regarding definitional work, the development phase of assessment is almost entirely in need of reform. Assessment implementation, like development, is an area in which reform would contribute significant value to higher education.

As noted throughout this chapter, much assessment is delivered in highly dated ways which is particularly surprising given radical changes in other facets of higher education. This application of new technologies would appear to be instrumental for reform, as would better embrace of professional experts and organisations. Alignment with innovations in teaching may be fruitful.

If specialist independent organisations can deliver assessment better and cheaper than higher education institutions, then expanding outsourcing will doubtless be seen by university executives as one among other feasible futures for this facet of higher education. As well, on transparency grounds there would appear to be value in moving beyond individual delivery to introduce more peer-reviewed or otherwise quality-assured forms of delivery. Obviously, the implications of such change for academic leadership, academic work and academic learning are in need of profound and imaginative reflection Coates and Goedegebuure While such ideas may appear to collide with traditional beliefs about academic autonomy and more recent institutional competition and commerce, other facets of higher education have transformed in far more radical ways to the advantage of higher education.

The analysis and reporting phases involve significant administrative and technical work, and as with the development and implementation phases have the potential to benefit substantially from transformation. Faculty time is a major cost-driver in higher education, and particularly given the lack of specialist expertise regarding assessment, there is value in finding approaches that make the most prudent use of available resources.

Substantial value would be added in any effort that further aligns assessment feedback with teaching and learning practice. In summary, it is concluded in this chapter that the quality and productivity of higher education would be improved by reforming almost every facet of assessment. Much assessment may be excellent and efficient, but most is not.

Clearly, by this analysis extensive change is required which may seem overwhelming to plan or initiate. Much small- and large-scale work has proven the feasibility of change, yet substantial obstacles hinder the diffusion of reform. As the chapter has asserted, this is a difficult and messy area of higher education in which there are no perfect solutions. All approaches have advantages and limitations. To be effective it would need to work across multiple levels and engage faculty, institutional managers and leaders, and relevant external stakeholders.

Such work would need to dovetail with broader curriculum, workforce or other reform, though this is not essential and this chapter has asserted an independent need for assessment reform. To engender broad appeal and necessary faculty engagement assessment redesign must be easy to understand and implement, yet yield meaningful improvement. To have impact it is essential to carefully articulate the audience for this formative contribution.

Clearly, to gain initial traction, the research paper must resonate with policymakers and institution leaders. But it must also resonate with faculty and academic managers, for the discussion in this chapter has affirmed that reform will be muted unless faculty change. Importantly, it is likely that the research paper will need to create and speak to a new audience.

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Looking broadly across various recent initiatives, serious assessment-related work on learning outcomes has been conducted by government officials, university academics, or researchers working in not-for-profit or commercial firms. Such hybrid arrangements are inevitable in the early days of technological adoption, but in synch with the development of the field it is necessary to produce a new kind of higher education assessment expertise and workforce. With relevant infrastructure in place it would be feasible to review the primary and support activities with reference to the likelihood of working through each of the obstacles sketched above, and for each activity to estimate the costs and benefits for quality and productivity.

Improvement resources could then be channelled in the most effective ways—nominally into reforming those activities where change looks feasible, and is likely to yield greater quality or productivity returns. The context and focus of the review would of course shape the recommendations made, and while these would be highly specific, a suite of case studies and collaborative supports could help streamline designs and plans for change.

Building this modernisation program, however, is a substantial undertaking in itself, but given its potential to advance assessment, hence higher education, appears to be a worthwhile investment to make. Open Access This chapter is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License, which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author s and source are credited.

Skip to main content Skip to sections. Advertisement Hide. Assessment of Learning Outcomes. Open Access. Download chapter PDF. The ATM Fig. The first dimension marks out a suite of academic phases, with these ordered according to a continuum of increasing transparency. The model charts the maturity of each of these five transparency phases along a second dimension. Each phase can be characterised as being at the formulation stage, the implementation stage, or the evaluation stage.

Open image in new window. Even the handful of very common forms of assessment play out in different ways, and rather than analyse academic activities such as exams or laboratory assignments, it is helpful to delve deeper to investigate more fundamental underpinnings. As a way forward the following analysis estimates the quality and productivity benefits that would arise from change in each phase, and the challenge associated with such change. Framed within the broader context of teaching and learning, a compelling research paper that resonates with both policy and practice is required to spark modernisation work on assessment redesign.

Learning and teaching academic standards project final report. Sydney: Australian Learning and Teaching Council. Google Scholar. Canny, B. Governance Models for Collaborations Involving Assessment. Sydney: Office for Learning and Teaching. Chakroun, B. National qualification frameworks: From policy borrowing to policy learning.

European Journal of Education, 45 2 , — CrossRef Google Scholar. Christensen, C. The innovative university: Changing the DNA of higher education from the inside out. New York: Wiley. Coates, H.

Learning Outcomes & Undergraduate Research Statistics

Defining and monitoring academic standards in Australian higher education. Higher Education Management and Policy, 22 1 , 1— Higher education learning outcomes assessment: International perspectives. Frankfurt: Peter Lang. Recasting the academic workforce: Why the attractiveness of the academic profession needs to be increased and eight possible strategies for how to go about this from an Australian perspective. Higher Education, 64 6 , — Propelling the field: Insights, trends and prospects. Coates Ed. Assessing student engagement and outcomes: Modelling insights from Australia and around the world.

International Journal of Chinese Education, 2 2 , — Threshold quality parameters in hybrid higher education. Higher Education, 68 4 , — Clarifying progress: Validation and application of the assessment transparency model ATM. Engaging university students: International insights from system-wide studies. Dordrect: Springer. Higher Education Management and Policy, 23 3 , 51— Dill, D. Ensuring academic standards in US higher education. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 46 3 , 53— Department of Education DoE. Edwards, D. The Australian medical assessment collaboration: Developing the foundations for a national assessment of medical student learning outcomes.

Sydney: Office of Learning and Teaching. Proficiency profile. Retrieved from: www.

Developing Learning and Content Objectives

Federkeil, G. Classifications and rankings. Ziegele Eds. Dordrecht: Springer. Bilbao: Universidad de Deusto. Krzykowski, L. Transparency in student learning assessment: Can accreditation standards make a difference? Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 46 3 , 67— Lennon, M.

Tuning: Identifying and measuring sector-based learning outcomes in postsecondary education.

Marshall, S. Improving assessment in higher education: A whole of institution approach. Each MA student will demonstrate in all research papers, including the thesis Plan I , ethical use of sources and accurate and properly formatted citations. Each MA student will demonstrate in all research papers, including the thesis, the abilities: to use primary and secondary sources appropriately; to identify and evaluate evidence; and to identify all relevant archival sources for a particular project.

Plan 1.

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Each MA student will demonstrate in all research papers the abilities to use primary and secondary sources appropriately and to identify and evaluate evidence. Plan II. Plan I. Each MA student will demonstrate in all research papers the ability to formulate a clear argument, support the argument with appropriate and thorough evidence, and reach a convincing conclusion.


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  • Each MA student will demonstrate in the required Advanced Historiography course the ability to recognize and apply the fundamental paradigms, analytical models, and theories of causation that are used in the discipline. Each MA student will demonstrate in research topic choices and resulting written work the ability to recognize and articulate the diversity of human experience, including ethnicity, race, language, sex, gender, as well as political, economic, social, and cultural structures over time and space.

    History Ph. History M. The University of New Mexico. Department of History. Broad Learning Goals A.