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Vital Signs of Learning

SDSU’s One Day in May 2012 Symposium takes a closer look at learning assessment.

Assessing student learning and teaching programs is a vital part of education. It's what helps curriculum evolve and programs improve. 

“Assessment is sort of like the heartbeat of learning,” said Brock Allen, co-director of the San Diego State University Center for Teaching and Learning.  “Assessments aren’t just some external wrapper that we slap on instruction; they’re vital signs that tell us whether our students and our programs are thriving or struggling.”

These, in a nutshell are the concerns addressed in this year’s annual One Day in May Symposium: Making Assessment Work for You — and Your Course, Your Program, and SDSU, offered Tuesday, May 22, and open to all faculty and administrators.  

“We’ve made real gains in recent years in building assessment into our thinking and our programs,” noted Kathy Williams, interim associate dean of Undergraduate Studies.  “Now we want to take it to the next level — to enhance our ability to plan and manage curricular resources in difficult times and to measure how well we are preparing students for a challenging future.” 

Like previous One Day in May Symposiums, which have been offered since 2005, this year’s event will offer a mix of hands on exploration, presentations of key concepts, and face-to-face consultations with experts.  SDSU President Elliot Hirshman will speak at the symposium lunch.

About the symposium

The 2012 symposium addresses two major themes:  course-based assessment and program-level assessment.

The first theme is designed for instructors who want to more effectively use conventional and innovative assessment strategies to enhance course-based learning. 

A key innovation is learning analytics: “What’s emerging very quickly is a new class of tools for much more immediate and fine-grained analysis of what’s going on in courses,” said James Frazee, director of Instructional Technology Services. 

“Imagine a sort of dashboard that sits on BlackBoard or other learning management systems such as remote responders or electronic texts, and tells you how students are doing — when they’re visiting materials and assignments, how often they repeat quizzes or participate in forums, when they’re engaged and when they’re out to lunch.”

Learning analytics

According to Frazee, a major goal of learning analytics is to pre-process ongoing assessment data so instructors can see patterns — often in near-real-time — and make course adjustments sooner and more accurately. 

“Learning analytics are shaping up to be a valuable augmentation to traditional tools such as papers and exams that sometimes don’t reveal critical clues for weeks,” Frazee said. 

John Whitmer, associate director of CSU’s learning management systems and services academic technology services, will address the vision and practicalities of learning analytics in his keynote speech.

New and improved

The symposium’s second theme, designed for program and curriculum leaders, examines new strategies and tools that make it easier to plan program-level assessments and utilize results for program improvement. 

From colleagues such as Brian Spitzberg, professor of communication, and Kathleen Krentler, director of assessment for the College of Business Administration, attendees will have an opportunity to see how successful SDSU programs have tackled curriculum planning and how they’re using SDSU’s software to organize assessment information and share it with different audiences.

More information

The One Day in May symposium is free to SDSU faculty, administrators, and staff and includes a continental breakfast, lunch, and a “Delectable Desserts and Coffee” reception. 

A limited number of seats are available to faculty at other San Diego colleges and universities.

“There are going to be so many conversations available and so much information that programs should consider sending multiple representatives if possible,” says lead symposium planner Suzanne Aurilio, director of technology enhanced instruction and faculty support at the College of Extended Studies.

For more information and to RSVP (required), go to http://cdi.sdsu.edu

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