October 24, 2008

Greetings all,

Welcome to issue number five of “What’s On My Mind?” It is hard to believe that we are already nine weeks into the semester. Today’s topic is on the importance of and challenges related to assessment – please read on. I’ll also comment on the sights and sounds from the college that touch our themes for the year – leadership for: student success, community building, bringing learning alive and positive social change.

This Week’s Focus – Assessment of Student Learning

Over the last several weeks, I’ve visited with a number of faculty and staff on the topic of assessment. Virtually everyone who I’ve talked with understands and supports the role of assessment of student learning outcomes as a critical element of the work we do. After all, if assessment is about improving student learning, who could argue against a robust, committed effort of this front? My conversations with faculty focused both on the efficacy of assessment as well as our macro processes – some of which are currently under review. I absolutely support continued review of the processes, especially if it yields greater levels of analysis, discussion, and closing the loop in terms of using what we have learned through assessment to improve student learning.

Over the last five years, I have been involved with the assessment of student learning outcomes in the out of class environment and I understand how messy, difficult, and challenging this process can be – especially when we try and “drill up” and look at learning across many venues. I have personally been involved with assessment activities that did not work as well as assessment strategies that really helped us improve learning. So please keep at it – our students are depending on us for constant improvement of the learning environment.

So if you were waiting for an HLC reference – here it is…the Higher Learning Commission defines assessment as “…{PVCC} needs to be clear about what it intends students to know and do, and find ways of learning whether, as a result of the education provided, students actually know and can do.” (HLC Handbook of Accreditation, section 3.2). Complementary to this definition is a comment that Sandy Shugart, President of Valencia Community College made at a recent MCCD event when he said “the most important individuals who need to know about our assessment findings are our students and next most important group are our faculty who facilitate learning.” So while the HLC definition focuses on the institutional commitment to assessment, Shugart reminds us that we need to be spending more time talking about our assessment findings with the critical players – students and faculty.

Quick Updates

Gene Rister’s poetry reading Asia Suite: Of Truth and Circumstance several weeks ago was very powerful. See if there are extra copies of his work – you will be moved. Gary Zaro’s production of Crimes of the Heart also provided for an entertaining afternoon at the theater. I encourage everyone to take in a show at the Center for Performing Arts. If you need a break catch the PVCC women’s Puma soccer team in playoff action at home this Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. Congratulations to Head Coach Kacey Bingham and Assistant Coach Aubrey Kerlin for a record breaking season (most wins and most goals scored). Finally, my thanks goes out to Steve Mozer who volunteers many hours a week supporting students using our adaptive technology through Disability Services. On certain days he is on campus working with students at 6:30 a.m. Yes it is all about student success and bringing learning alive!

Have a great week.


Paul Dale, Ed.D.
Interim President