Students in a classroom listen attentively to the instructor

Assessing Where We Stand

Kendra Prince

Albert Einstein once said, "Any fool can know. The point is to understand." To ensure that its students have not only mastered the material they are learning in class, but have deepened core skills that will enhance their life-long learning potential, Tarrant County College is initiating an ongoing assessment process focused on improving instructional quality in six core competencies: Critical Thinking, Communication, Empirical and Quantitative Reasoning, Teamwork, Social Responsibility and Personal Responsibility. A seventh competency, Computer Literacy, is now included in the Assessment Plan Framework draft, which is currently under review by the Academic Curriculum Teams.

"We are answering the question, ‘What do we want our students to know when they leave here?’" said Nancy Curé, associate vice chancellor of academic affairs.

According to Marlon Mote, director of instructional assessment, assessment supports the mission and strategic goals of TCC by providing evidence of improved student learning outcomes and institutional effectiveness.

Mote believes assessment leads to improved instructional quality. "Informed decision making through assessment efforts is created through student learning outcome goals, collection of information on student efforts to accomplish these goals and closing-the-loop actions to improve learning outcomes and student success," he said.

After Curé and Mote joined TCC in 2015, they conducted an assessment tour, visiting with representatives from each campus and staff from Institutional Intelligence and Research, Institutional Effectiveness and the Quality Enhancement Plan and Instructional and International Initiatives.

From those discussions, common themes emerged that underscored the need for assessment efforts to: support faculty, facilitate effective communication, assess support areas and Community & Industry Education, leverage work of others, develop realistic timelines and deadlines and effectively use technology and innovation.

According to Mote, assessment is not intended to measure individual faculty performance or impede classroom instruction. "The purpose of assessment is not to infringe on faculty academic freedom," he said.

Assessment provides faculty members data for informed decisions about instructional changes, which will improve student learning and better performance in the classroom.

Director Marlon Mote

Kim Jackson, chair of visual and performing arts and associate professor of humanities and dance at the Northwest Campus, has been involved with assessment since she started at TCC in 2008 and says faculty are essential to the assessment process. "As a faculty member, I feel it is my duty to actively participate in conversations about assessment," she said. "I want people to see the work I do in the classroom as valid and credible. Assessment provides ways for that to happen."

Fellow assessment team member Lee Snaples, professor of history at the South Campus, agrees. "As professionals, we are constantly self-evaluating and this is a tremendous tool to assist in that process," he said. "The current plan will allow faculty to retain our academic freedom and creativity while still allowing the College to obtain the information it needs."

According to Jackson, the current assessment team wants to allow each discipline to identify how each core competency manifests in the classroom. "The hope is to put faculty at the center of the conversation and allow them to lead the charge in measuring and learning," she said.

Jackson feels it is also important to establish integrity. "By making our assessment processes accessible and transparent, we create a culture of evidence to support the wonderful work we do here at TCC," she said. "We want the students to be proud of their degrees and for employers to see our students as marketable because they have the skills to succeed."

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