In perusing the last few months of Academe, I was rather surprised by the “hot topics” in higher education, in that those selected for publication were virtually identical to the issues and concerns that have flummoxed us these past three or four months. While the articles themselves may not lead us to the promised land where all students maximize their abilities and talents, the authors do confirm that our difficulties/challenges are shared by most of our counterparts on other campuses. Maybe commiseration is beneficial.
This report will be an attempt to identify some of those issues that faculty (Lincoln and others) deem important and, perhaps more to the point, expend a great deal of time and effort. There is no attempt here to supply answers to the questions raised; I will opt for the Socratic instructional technique and construct additional questions to ones raised by Academe contributors. There are 23 questions in all and, like most important issues in life, there will undoubtedly be more than one reasonable response. Happy problem solving!
1. College Rankings
a. Is a college’s “quality” almost fully determined by its selectivity in admissions?
b. Is not selectivity closely related to first-year students’ SAT scores?
c. Are not college ranking formulae heavily weighted by SAT scores?
d. Are not “high-scoring” SAT students likely from “high-earning” parents?
e. Should not colleges be evaluated for what they actually do for students once they arrive on campus?
f. Should not value-added impact supersede admissions criterion as a factor in rankings?
g.Why do US News & World Report rankings criteria differ for HBCUs (polling of HBCU presidents and provosts)?
h. Want LU to jump in those rankings? Hire 20 more fulltime faculty members, thereby decreasing both faculty-student ratio and number of classes that exceed 50 enrollees
a. Are colleges truly committed to effective teaching?
b. Do publications and obtaining external funding warrant more consideration for tenure/promotion than teaching?
c. Does knowledge of one’s field make one knowledgeable how to teach it well?
d. Is not teaching effectiveness comprised of the ability to master and articulate the content and control classroom dynamics?
e. Should not new faculty be mentored in educational assessment, classroom management, curriculum development, and student advising?
f. When do students learn best? (Hint: personal investment, active engagement,prompt, helpful feedback, and cooperative learning with peers and faculty)
g. Does assessment of teaching effectiveness (for promotion/tenure purposes) consist only of student end-of-semester course evaluations and chair’s observations?
3. Assessment of Student Learning
a. Is the ultimate assessment goal of “corporate-model” higher education to identify and administer one high-stakes test for all students? And then use those results to reward or punish faculty?
b. Will decisions about promotion and tenure be judged solely by learning outcomes (at least the teaching effectiveness component)?
c. Should not faculty/administrators be more concerned what students did not know/could not do when they first entered college ? (the so-called “value-added” effect )
d. If assessment of student learning is here to stay, how can we increase faculty interest and expertise in the assessment process?
e. Are all faculty presently capable and willing of making informed judgments about curriculum and academic standards? (These duties do fall under the auspices of faculty)
f. Has the government begun replacing both institutional and faculty judgment in academic matters?
g. What happens if/when government succeeds in controlling regional accreditors, e.g., Middle States?
h. Are learning goals in the liberal arts diametrically opposed to the culture of assessment (as some have proposed)?