An Assessment of Assessment Education

Among my other courses this semester, I’m enrolled in an online Library Assessment course.  As part of the requirements for the course, we apply different concepts that we learn about in our reading or in video lecture to hypothetical situations proposed by my instructor.

Our first set of readings, video lecture, and forum discussion centered on a general introduction to evaluation.  A lot of the lecture was introducing a barrage of vocabulary and sorting out the differences therein.  Following the video lecture, we were directed to two discussion forums to apply what we’d learned to a “real” situation.

Photo c/o Morguefile
Photo c/o Morguefile

First thing first: chocolate chip cookies.  To sort out the logic behind evaluation, we were asked us to flesh out the logic behind evaluation.  We faced two questions:

  1. Establishing criteria: What are the dimensions or criteria on which a chocolate chip cookie should be judged (e.g., type of chocolate, texture, color, aroma)?
  2. Constructing standards: How well should the cookie perform on each of the dimensions (what are your standards)? Develop a rating system.

Here’s what I came up with (my preferences in purple):

table

My ranking system is far from perfect, but I feel compelled to share it given my enthusiasm for this exercise.

After we developed our standards, we were instructed to go eat some chocolate chip cookies of at least two different brands/recipes… for educational purposes! Then, we were instructed to evaluate them:

  1. Measuring performance and comparing with standards: Based on your criteria for a good cookie, how well does each cookie measure up against the standards you set?
  2. Synthesizing and integrating evidence into judgment of worth: Which cookie is worth buying? Which cookie would you recommend?

I’ll pass on sharing my comparison of two recipes, and instead cut to the chase: why am I devoting a blog post to this exercise?

Quite simply, I think that this introduction to evaluation and the field of assessment is a brilliant application of what otherwise turns into jargon-riddled alphabet soup.  By breaking down a completely subjective topic — what defines the ultimate chocolate chip cookie — and using that process to illustrate the actual practice of evaluating intrinsically subjective things, I feel I’ve gotten a firm grip on the content that was developed.

From the perspective of someone with great interest in user education, this type of application of abstract concepts to the accessible world is great.  It seems that in this profession, we’re always hunting for practical examples of concepts, and this is a an excellent example.  My question to my colleagues is, how do we make the jump from the analogies we currently use to comprehensive practice that replicates a process almost exactly in an accessible way?

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5 thoughts on “An Assessment of Assessment Education

  1. Thanks for sharing what you’re doing in your Library Assessment class! I’m looking forward to more posts about it 🙂 [P.S. Love the cookie example]

  2. Thanks, Michelle! It’s going really well, and I think I’ll be posting about it a lot. Definitely glad that I completed research methods first, though.

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