I'm currently sitting in Midway Airport waiting for my 2:20 flight to Detroit metro. I'm on my way home from a Higher Learning Commission Assessment Workshop. For the reader (since I'm sure I'm down to one, or maybe even into the negative numbers -- does writing a post mean that readers go away when one does it only once every six weeks?) unfamiliar with the HLC, they are the primary accrediting body for post-secondary institutions in about 1/3 of the country, from roughly Ohio to Colorado on the E-W axis. I've done a few gigs with them over the past couple of years. I like working with them because I have a lot to learn from them, which is very cool. They see assessment as a process that should focus on the improvement of student learning. They are all about encouraging good assessment -- what we in the WPA world have been calling discipline-based assessment that is used to improve teaching and learning. They have some very nifty resources to encourage this kind of work, and the creds -- one might even call it the power -- to have people pay attention to what they say. It's very interesting to hear how institutions really believe that assessment should engage people, should be used for improvement, can be fun and interesting, etc. when it comes from their accreditor (and not, say, from a faculty committee).
Doing these workshops are really interesting because I get to see elements of the academic work I don't encounter often. I worked with four community colleges in this session -- I do see community college people, but mostly writing instructors. These were people from across the spectrum - administrators, student affairs folks, instructors of technical things and trades, and so on. I also get to see people from for-profit institutions, which is a whole different ball of wax entirely. That's a wild world, one that I'm not sure how I feel about. Or to put it differently, one I have some strong feelings about, but I'm trying to distance myself from those feelings and hear about their experiences and challenges. It's another learning piece -- pretty interesting.