ERIC Number: EJ1072081
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2015
Abstractor: As Provided
Is Assessment Destroying the Liberal Arts?
Thought & Action, p15-22 Sum 2015
While higher education has typically included exposure to the values and ethos of the liberal arts, traditional liberal arts education has been in retreat and under threat for a while now. What role has the assessment movement had on this retreat? Is assessment, in fact, part of the deterioration of higher education? Assessment in academia began in the early 2000's. Now, decades later, in my own department at San José State University, the assessment process is incredibly bureaucratic (to say the least), laborious and time consuming. And we aren't alone. Across the nation faculty at a wide range of institutions similarly scramble to assess, and assess over and over again, their students, majors and entire programs. Meanwhile, students' learning is not improving; on the contrary it is deteriorating. Retention and graduation rates are falling as well. With declining academic standards and college completion rates, it is not logically possible to claim that assessment (or anything else for that matter) is improving higher education. With those experiences in mind, and also after witnessing the way in which the Elementary and Secondary Education Act--the so-called "No Child Left Behind" law of 2001--and its frequent high-stakes assessments have impacted K-12 education, it is perfectly logical and necessary to ask: Is assessment harming higher education as well? There are two possible answers. The first, and best-case scenario, is that assessment does not improve the quality of instruction but does not harm it either. If this is true, the only damage is a waste of time and resources that could be better invested in students, and clearly any effort we can divert to serving our students better is very much in order. The second possibility is that assessment is one of the reasons the quality of instruction is deteriorating, and in this case it is pernicious. The answer given below is, simply put: yes, assessment does indeed harm the liberal arts and higher education in general. However, the criticism offered here is of assessment in its current practice and not of the need for evaluation and improvement in college and university teaching.
Descriptors: Liberal Arts, Higher Education, Student Evaluation, Role, College Faculty, Learning Processes, Educational Improvement, Academic Standards, Graduation Rate, School Holding Power, High Stakes Tests, Elementary Secondary Education, Educational Quality, Criticism, Evaluation Methods, Teacher Attitudes, College Students
National Education Association. 1201 16th Street NW Washington, DC 20036. Tel: 202-833-4000; Fax: 202-822-7974; Web site: http://www.nea.org
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education; Elementary Secondary Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A