The Relationship of the Researcher with Faculty in Assessing Student Learning

Accreditation and SLO Committee Member

At the 2010 Fall Plenary Session, the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges approved the paper “Guiding Principles for SLO Assessment.” The paper details the importance of faculty engagement in the development and assessment of student learning outcomes (SLOs). Dialog about student learning is a crticial accreditation theme and an important element in the Accreditating Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) Institutional Effectiveness SLO rubric.

As stated in the Guiding Principle #7 of the SLO Paper, page 21:

In considering both the limitations of assessment data and additional variables that may influence the data, faculty should work closely with college research staff. Researchers can provide guidance and expertise regarding the construction of valid assessment instruments and can help to identify additional factors that may influence the results. Research staff may even provide information or identify means to acquire information regarding factors external to the assessment process. They may also assist in identifying the most useful approach for addressing the specific questions that faculty wish to see answered and in ensuring that assessment data are able to address the questions being posed. Faculty should always retain the primary responsibility for assessment development and analysis, but they should also work cooperatively with and appreciate the expertise of researchers who may be able to enhance the effectiveness of the assessment processes that faculty create.

Faculty are well aware of the ACCJC’s mandate to be at the proficiency level on the accreditation standards rubric for SLOs by 2012. As we look more deeply at student learning, we recognize the importance of assessment and how it could improve and enhance our students’ prospects for success.

Faculty also know that the process, if done properly, takes time. Due to the state’s fiscal crisis, faculty have taken on more students and have increased their workload.

What if the administration, specifically the researcher, could help faculty make the assessment process more expeditious and efficient?

What if the researcher and a faculty member were deeply engaged in a dialog regarding the faculty member’s passion?

What if the researcher could help faculty refine the question and see it through a different lens, relying on the faculty’s expertise and focused on how the right data could help faculty enhance student learning?

What if faculty could understand that the process is collaborative and the researcher is not the one to offer the solutions?

What if faculty and researcher could forge a partnership, based on mutual respect, to refine and enhance assessment projects?

What if faculty understood that researchers are sometimes able to help quantify the faculty’s qualitative data in a way that emphasizes and enhances student learning?

What if faculty and researchers could work together and put the focus on a common purpose: student success?

Faculty want to do what we do best, teach! The assessment mandate has prompted us to forge new and different relationships, especially with researchers, as we look at evidence of student learning to help us improve.

In a perfect world, what would an assessment dialog between faculty and researcher look like? Imagine, if you were walking down the hall and you looked through the open door at a departmental or program meeting with the researcher discussing SLO results, what would you see?

Would you see…

Laughter, humor – not so serious, not strained, no tension, not adversarial.

Two professionals asking questions; both are learning and teaching

A mentor/mentee relationship that shifts between the faculty member and the researcher.

What do you think? Continue this conversation by clicking on the following Survey Monkey link and share your “perfect world” perspective on the value of working with researchers with the Senate’s Accreditation and SLO Committee:

or email: David Grossman
Academic Senate Accreditation and SLO Committee Member
Physical Education Instructor
Barstow Community College
dgrossma [at] (dgrossma[at]barstow[dot]edu)

Special thanks to Dr. Bob Pacheco for his contributions to this article. Dr. Pacheco is the Director of Research at Barstow Community College.