Blog: Tips & Tricks

Primary Artifacts for Authentic Accountability and SoTL

Ben Coulter, Ed.D. June 18, 2015

Several years ago my university was involved in a grant from the Library of Congress focused on engaging K12 educators to access and use primary sources in teaching, learning, and reflection. The project defined these ‘Primary Sources’ as authentic materials of history — original documents and objects which were created at the time under study and unaltered from their original form. They were distinct from ‘secondary sources’ that may have been created by someone without firsthand experience or that may had been otherwise compromised from their original state. Examining primary sources provided a powerful sense of authenticity, history and genuine performance of the past.

As a parallel in higher education, the benefits of preserving and readily accessing primary student artifacts can extend far beyond accountability requirements by supporting faculty in efforts for their own scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL); implementing informed, reflective program improvement initiatives; and lending a degree of validity to curricular changes to enhance student learning.

Access to, and longitudinal review of, assessment data and associated original student work (‘artifacts’) to better understand performance and achievement characteristics over time is of high value and utility to individual educators and academic programs. Just consider the last time you tried to (or had to :D) evidence past student performance…often the most you could hope for would be unearthing an old syllabus, finding a spreadsheet with student scores/grades, or perhaps discovering a copy of a student paper stuck in the rear of the filing cabinet.

Beyond addressing accountability requirements, primary student artifacts can serve several other purposes:

Calibration: Used for mock scoring by programs to determine an acceptable level of agreement between evaluators on evidence of performance while maintaining a degree of subjectivity when considering the merits of student work.

SoTL (Scholarship of Teaching and Learning): Through reflective practice, the ability for faculty to review and consider actual student performance as evidenced in their original artifacts over time and to supplement inference drawn from review of scores/grades.

Continuity: Provides institutional memory and transition consistency when considering authentic student work over time (longitudinal analysis).

However, it’s challenging to use primary student artifacts to support assessment, SoTL, and accountability if they aren’t easily accessible to individual faculty and academic programs and also remain unaltered. My institution ultimately chose to use the Learning Achievement Tools (LAT) by Taskstream in order to ensure that faculty and academic programs can quickly access (online) both their evaluation data AND archived, original artifacts that remain unaltered from the point of assessment. Every student product uploaded in the system is copied and saved in perpetuity upon completed evaluation and directly associated with the assessment metric and transaction history of evaluation.


Performance Reports

Performance reports provide the ability to view the original artifact and evaluation.

Disaggregated reports allow, with granted roles and permissions, drill-down & visibility of the originally submitted/evaluated artifact in unaltered format. Once assessed in the system, students are restricted from retrieving evaluated artifacts for editing/modification.


Primary Student Artifacts and Evaluation Details

Primary student artifacts and evaluation details are preserved in their original state and can be easily accessed later.

The ability to access, view and reflect on primary evaluated student artifacts, unaltered from their original state, afford faculty and other stakeholders visibility into genuine student evidence and performance which can serve as the backdrop for program improvement initiatives & contribute to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) for faculty.

Ben Coulter is Taskstream’s Senior Director of Campus Solutions. Prior to joining Taskstream in 2006 he was a professor in Educational Leadership & Foundations and program director of Instructional Technology at Western Carolina University. He also worked on the program faculty at the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching. He earned his Ed.D. from North Carolina State University (Higher Education Administration); an M.A. degree from Western Carolina University (Human Development); and a B.A. degree from Idaho State University (International Law). He and his wife (an elementary school principal) reside in Asheville, North Carolina. He is retired from the United States Army in the field of Military Intelligence.