As Director of the AALHE Conference, I probably get to speak to more people than anyone at the annual meeting. Chatting with so many attendees often leaves me with a different set of takeaways than many others might have. This year, the themes that I heard all lead to one very specific message: We are ready. Ready for action. Ready for change. Ready for impact. No matter whom I spoke with, people were ready to take the next step in assessment.
What does that mean? For some, I think it means they are ready for a professional organization that is willing to make statements about best practice. I heard from several attendees that said they would love to reference an official statement about how assessment should be structured, conducted, and reported. These individuals want to reference AALHE guidelines and opinions when they speak to their deans, provosts, and presidents. For others, I think it means that they are ready to take it a step further; to stop accepting assessment for compliance and instead get serious about assessment for improvement. I chatted with several attendees who talked about the work they have done and are doing to connect assessment to their campus’s teaching and learning centers. Many recognize that instruction goes hand-in-hand with assessment, and yet the two are rarely tethered in the institution’s hierarchy.
What did I hear much less of this year? In a word: Compliance. Yes, there were many accreditor discussions, but far fewer references were made to the need for compliance. The idea that assessment is a requirement for compliance was less of a focal point this year. What I heard instead is that assessment is a requirement of good teaching and learning. In order to get good at teaching and to ensure we are graduating great students, we need to assess. Assessment is a function of the teaching and learning process, which is why it is a part of the accreditation process.
What did I notice about this year’s conference attendees? There were fewer queen bees and more worker bees. The AALHE conference has always attracted a wide variety of attendees, but it seemed to attract fewer institution administrators this year (Provosts, Deans, etc.) and more of the people on the ground doing the hard work of assessment. Although I love to see all types of people at the conference, I was pleased that there were so many assessment professionals and faculty at this year’s event. AALHE was created specifically for the people who have been charged with sharing the gospel of assessment, crunching the data, and telling the story or the results.
Next year’s conference will be held in Louisville, KY on June 12th – 14th. Mark your calendars and sign up early. Planning for the conference has already begun. As I meet with the conference committee we will mull our takeaways and seek to continue to advance assessment in the ways that matter most to our members and attendees. Our goal is to get better every year. If you have any conference takeaways that you’d like to share, I encourage you to tweet them using #AALHE2016.
See you in June 2017!
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