The Measure of a Man

agapelove1Ben Franklin coined a saying that “nothing is certain in life but death and taxes.”  In higher education, a variation of Franklin’s wisdom might be that nothing is certain but death and assessment.

Assessment – quantitative, measurable outcomes of student learning – is an important part of any educational endeavor. College professors have been doing it for centuries through exams and course grades. Current assessment trends, however,  require professors to use measures other than grades to gauge student learning.

For example, a professor might require her science students to write essays on an ethical dilemma and how they would resolve it.  A government professor might ask his students to explain why the Constitution is important. In both cases the exercises require a quantitative score using a standardized rubric.  A lot of us feel like we’ve been turned into behavioral scientists and the students into lab rats.

My struggle with assessment is that it overlooks the most important aspect of a college education – one that is entirely unquantifiable.

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