Alverno College’s Educational Research and Evaluation department studies and evaluates student learning, progress, development, and performance. We work with faculty, staff, and administrators to examine program- and institution-wide student learning outcomes for both the purposes of continuous improvement and demonstrating accountability. Our collaborative focus in leveraging curriculum-embedded assessments reinforces a sustainable and dynamic assessment system. Our scholarly contribution to educational research, which engages a wide range of theories and practices, reinforces an educationally meaningful approach to program evaluation.
Sustained and widening conversations ensure coherence and continuous improvement. Alverno’s approach to educational research and evaluation is sensitive to context and mission. In our dialogue with educators at other institutions, we have found some broad points of discussion about our own and others’ educational practices that assist in thinking across educational practices. We have also found that educational research, evaluation, and practice can be an integrated dynamic learning system when an institution articulates how educational principles and values are shared across its diverse activities. At Alverno, identifiable structures, such as the Research and Evaluation Council (REC), explicitly promote a scholarship of teaching, learning, and assessment that integrates theory, research, practice, and policy. At the same time, responsibility for review of program, curriculum, and institution-wide effectiveness lies with departments, faculty, and staff across the college in a community of inquiry.
At Alverno, the ability-based curriculum is an educational framework that dynamically supports all levels of student, program, and institutional assessment. It is critical in our dynamic approach that curriculum-embedded assessment begins with a focus on fostering and documenting individual student learning in relation to how the abilities are defined across the curriculum in general education and within the major. It is also critical that curriculum-embedded assessment extends its purposes by assisting Alverno educators to examine patterns across student performances on a particular assessment (and in relation to other assessments) to draw inferences about how well students are achieving learning outcomes at the level of the course, program, and institution. By taking this path that extends assessment purposes from its grounding in individual student learning, we, as a college, ensure that we learn together and stay mutually connected to our educational mission.
ERE’s signature research includes investigation of the assumption that collegiate learning connects with how graduates conduct their civic, professional and personal lives. This research serves to interrogate and further inform the broad educational assumptions and principles that we collectively hold as a college. It is also contributing to adult developmental theory. For example, ERE staff wrote a chapter on “Holistic development, learning and performance in college and beyond” for The Oxford Handbook of Reciprocal Adult Learning and Development (2011).