The purpose of this book is to re-center the conversation on assessment from one focused on assessment-as-evidence to an alternative perspective that emphasizes assessment-as-process. Questions and discussions on assessment that surface routinely in various venues must ultimately come back to a focus on process, with a particular focus on an institution's context and culture. One of the great frustrations often encountered by assessment practitioners in higher education is the realization that published models are not easily imported into their own institutional environments. In working with assessment, they learn that their strategy must be tailored to the specific parameters -- context and culture -- of their own institutions. This realization requires them to design and implement an assessment plan within the established mechanisms (process) employed by their institution to manage change. This suggestion, although intuitively obvious, is a subject often overlooked in conversations about assessment through public dialogues and professional publications.
Contexts for Learning is written for several distinct audiences. In bringing together the perspectives of faculty, administrators, and practitioners, the editor tried to balance academic rigor with practical application. Administrators will find value in learning how their counterparts at other institutions have successfully managed the implementation of assessment plans. Faculty, as scholars, will hopefully find that the essays further the professional dialogue on assessment. Faculty, as practitioners, will find value in the utility of the essays as practical suggestions worthy of consideration in their own efforts to manage assessment locally. Finally, students of higher education and organizational behavior will gain insights into the dynamics of higher educational reform through exposure to several new and relevant institutional case studies.
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Bruce Keith is associate dean for academic affairs at the United States Military Academy, West Point, NY.
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