Assessment is a goal-driven process. When piloting or launching new initiatives, it is important to set outcome-related goals and establish means to assess the initiative. Assessment begins with a clear articulation of what one is attempting to accomplish, convey, or demonstrate. A goal can be a hypothesis or description about what should be the result of a particular approach to a subject; and it can also be prescriptive, setting forth specific items of knowledge that will be gained. The assessment itself is informed by the nature of the goal and the use and audience for the results. Typical methods include portfolio review, surveys, and focus groups. An example drawn from this report might go as follows: in designing a cluster course group, the professors plan syllabi that include not only lectures and reading assignments, but also experiences and evaluations that force students to engage with and synthesize material from each of the disciplines covered within the cluster.

Students leave most universities with classroom notes, textbooks, and a diploma. There is strong evidence that suggests this state of affairs is changing dramatically, and the strongest piece of evidence is the rapid growth in popularity of electronic portfolios. These are electronic collections of work—curricular and reflective—collected over time, that are showcased by students during the course of their university education. They may include text, photos, video, and audio, completed work as well as drafts and sketches. Many believe that the ePortfolio will replace the traditional résumé in just a few years, as employers seek students with a breadth of experience and tangible evidence of success in writing, creating, performing, designing, and engaging (Appendix 1).

Recommendations for Assessment

  • Add capacity in institutional research to support learning outcomes assessment, especially for assessment across the curriculum.
  • Encourage the use of ePortfolios as a self-appraising instrument for students to cultivate responsibility for their education and an appreciation for their BU education’s relevance to their communities (campus, national, global) during and after their completion of the undergraduate degree.
  • Encourage the use of ePortfolios as a virtual forum for students to describe, to comment on, and to mentor each other regarding co-curricular and academic experiences at BU that incorporate volunteer and/or intern work into course requirements and that encourage interdisciplinary study.

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