- Assessment for Excellence: The Philosophy and Practice of Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education (2nd ed.) by Alexander W. Astin and Anthony Lising Antonio
With what seems like a burgeoning body of literature on higher education assessment, Astin and antonio’s (2012) Assessment for Excellence is a helpful reminder of the importance of getting to the philosophical roots of assessment the serves the central functions of institutions of higher education. This second edition provides some updated information but at its core maintains the same focus as Astin’s first edition: An in-depth description of the well-utilized Input-Environment-Outcome (IEO) model as an approach to assessment that honors the talent development approach to excellence, which is “determined by our ability to develop the talents of our students and faculty to the fullest extent possible” (p. 7). The major purpose of the book is to help institutions enhance teaching and research functions toward the talent development of students and faculty through the use of assessment.
Overall the authors accomplish their purpose through a well-organized and systematic text that explains the I-E-O model and its uses for assessment. Chapter 1 outlines the foundation for the text, and the authors’ arguments about the philosophy and logic of assessment, explaining in depth their focus on talent development, as opposed to other conceptions of excellence such as institutional rankings based on reputations and resources. Although there is much critique of rankings, this book gives us an alternative path to excellence that more institutions should seriously consider and implement. [End Page 427]
Chapter 2 outlines the authors’ preferred conceptual model (I-E-O) and methodological procedures for assessment, although they are clear to acknowledge that their recommendations are not the only or best ways of conducting assessment. The autobiographical account by Astin on the development of the model is not only interesting but also helpful for exposing readers to three key lessons learned: (a) educational impact or effectiveness cannot be evaluated by outcomes alone, but must also consider inputs; (b) Any output measure is not solely determined by a single input; and (c) Input and output data themselves are limited in their usefulness without also knowing about educational environments and experiences. The presentation of the I-E-O model includes multiple examples, most of which are quantitative in nature. More concrete qualitative examples would be helpful for demonstrating the model’s vast usage across not only quantitative designs, but also qualitative and mixed methods approaches.
The middle chapters (3, 4, and 5) each focus on how to measure different components of the IEO model, starting first with outcomes (chapter 3), where much attention goes to the validity of measuring both cognitive and affective outcomes. Chapter 4 focuses on student inputs, with some caveats that may also capture faculty inputs. Then chapter 5 explores the measurement of different environments, which is likely of most interest to educators since they have some control over how to improve such environments. What could be added to this chapter is an integration of other environmental frameworks popular in higher education, for instance, Bronfrenbrenner’s (1979) ecology model of development.
Chapter 6 describes various ways of analyzing assessment data, covering distinctions between descriptive and causal analyses, and focusing on correlational and regression analyses as well as multiple statistical models, all guided by the I-E-O framework. Chapter 7 helps readers understand how best to use the results of their assessments, including integrating a guiding theory, combating the potential “so what?” reaction, targeting specific audiences, and collaborating and communicating with key individuals across campus. I agree with the authors that these chapters (6 & 7) are the most important parts of the book.
Branching out further, chapter 8 details how institutions can create databases that would allow for assessment to take place, including practical, technical, and political issues. In this chapter we again gain access to important history behind several of Astin’s projects...