The College of Education has developed and continues to refine a comprehensive and integrated assessment system that includes measures of candidate performance as well as evaluations of operations and programs. Systematic data collection, aggregation, and analyses support continuous improvement efforts.
Continual assessment, a central concept to the practice of reflection, is essential to program and unit improvement and effectiveness. Assessment evidence must come from a variety of data sources garnered over time and measured with appropriate concerns for reliability, validity, and fairness. Assessment at both the formative and summative levels provides the essential short-term data and the necessary long-term information, respectively, needed to make decisions about students and program effectiveness. The assessment systems used in all JMU professional education programs, both initial and advanced, incorporate these two common dimensions.
The first dimension, formative assessment, is grounded in the outcomes that are specific to each program; that is, linked to each desired candidate program outcome is a way to assess the degree to which that outcome has been reached. Each of the outcomes, to varying and appropriate degrees, is directly linked to both the competencies found in this conceptual framework and student learning or success within the programs. Assessments track growth and development in the areas of content knowledge, pedagogical competence, and appropriate dispositions. Programmatic variations in the methodology of the outcomes assessment occur, but the goals of each outcome are congruent with what we know about how children learn and grow and what we know about the organization of specific disciplines. These data provide information upon which decisions about candidates' progress through the program can be made.
The second dimension, summative assessment, is the manner in which the Unit collects, manages, and analyzes data and outcomes related to each program at various points along a candidate’s programmatic path. Assessment data when aggregated across programs and across the Unit provide information needed to make sound decisions about programmatic and Unit changes to optimize the candidates' preparation. Continual review provides a dynamic and self-correcting property to the unit and its programs.
Finally, the assessment system, developed thoughtfully and carefully over several years, applies directly toward elements of any professional program, whether initial or advanced, that are related to candidates’ learning and growth. Focused on candidate outcomes, the assessment system seeks to measure candidates’ growth and development as they integrate, connect, and blend content knowledge and sound pedagogical principles into actual practice. Therefore, this outcome-based approach allows for both a holistic view of candidates’ progress as well as for the improvement of the unit and its programs.
Amy Thelk, Ph.D.
Director of Assessment and Evaluation
College of Education
James Madison University