Wednesday, March 04, 2009

assessing learning

Cupertino is about 8 miles south of Palo Alto. If you get to San Jose,
you have gone too far. This a big suburban area so there aren't any
distinguishing features when you transition between Mountain View,
Sunnyvale, Cupertino... DeAnza College and its sister Foothill College
are right smack in the middle of Silicon Valley - geographically,
culturally and spiritually.

DeAnza was one of the first colleges to offer television courses -
huge in the 1980s and 1990s. It was the center for teaching
programming, network administration and everything IT related.
However, offering transfer courses and a flexible, low cost
alternative to 4-year institutions has always been a major focus of
the instructional offerings.

Fortunately, we get to be innovative and are encouraged to explore
options to attract and retain students. There is always the concern
for articulation agreements - courses are reviewed periodically by
some of the state 4-year schools to ensure they continue to accept the
course for transfer credit.

I think a big issue that will come up is assessing student learning.
What are students learning and how do you know this? What are they
supposed to have learned and how is that assessed and evaluated. At
the community college level we see a much broader spectrum of
students, and are much more aware of these differences.

I have students who are amazing learners - full time employees,
parents, community volunteers and full-courseload students. If they
were only graded on standard college-level quizzes and essays, they
would be marginal. With a broader range of assessment and evaluations,
it is evident that they have an outstanding command of the topic and
their analytical skills and critical thinking are exceptional. Their
personal life experiences add another important dimension to the
class. Oh, did I mention that English is their third language?

Welcome to my world. Whatever gets decided must take these learners
into account. They are the future.

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